3 Buy-Rated Dividend Stocks: DRI, STO, MWE

Editor's Note: Any reference to TheStreet Ratings and its underlying recommendation does not reflect the opinion of TheStreet, Inc. or any of its contributors including Jim Cramer or Stephanie Link.

TheStreet Ratings' stock model projects a stock's total return potential over a 12-month period including both price appreciation and dividends. Our Buy, Hold or Sell ratings designate how we expect these stocks to perform against a general benchmark of the equities market and interest rates.

While plenty of high-yield opportunities exist, investors must always consider the safety of their dividend and the total return potential of their investment. It is not uncommon for a struggling company to suspend high-yielding dividends and subsequently result in precipitous share price declines.

TheStreet Ratings' stock rating model views dividends favorably, but not so much that other factors are disregarded. Our model gauges the relationship between risk and reward in several ways, including: the pricing drawdown as compared to potential profit volatility, i.e. how much one is willing to risk in order to earn profits?; the level of acceptable volatility for highly performing stocks; the current valuation as compared to projected earnings growth; and the financial strength of the underlying company as compared to its stock's valuation as compared to its stock's performance.

These and many more derived observations are then combined, ranked, weighted, and scenario-tested to create a more complete analysis. The result is a systematic and disciplined method of selecting stocks. As always, stock ratings should not be treated as gospel — rather, use them as a starting point for your own research.

The following pages contain our analysis of 3 stocks with substantial yields, that ultimately, we have rated "Buy."

Darden Restaurants

Dividend Yield: 4.50%

Darden Restaurants (NYSE: DRI) shares currently have a dividend yield of 4.50%.

Darden Restaurants, Inc. owns and operates full service restaurants in the United States and Canada. It operates restaurants under the Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, Eddie V's Prime Seafood, and Wildfish Seafood Grille brand names. The company has a P/E ratio of 15.61.

The average volume for Darden Restaurants has been 1,346,700 shares per day over the past 30 days. Darden Restaurants has a market cap of $6.4 billion and is part of the leisure industry. Shares are up 8.8% year to date as of the close of trading on Wednesday.

TheStreet Ratings rates Darden Restaurants as a buy. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, reasonable valuation levels, good cash flow from operations and notable return on equity. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had somewhat weak growth in earnings per share.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • DRI's revenue growth has slightly outpaced the industry average of 4.3%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 11.3%. This growth in revenue does not appear to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, displayed by a decline in earnings per share.
  • Net operating cash flow has increased to $259.60 million or 22.68% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, DARDEN RESTAURANTS INC has also vastly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of -83.79%.
  • Current return on equity is lower than its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a clear sign of weakness within the company. Compared to other companies in the Hotels, Restaurants & Leisure industry and the overall market, DARDEN RESTAURANTS INC's return on equity exceeds that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • In its most recent trading session, DRI has closed at a price level that was not very different from its closing price of one year earlier. This is probably due to its weak earnings growth as well as other mixed factors. Looking ahead, although the push and pull of the overall market trend could certainly make a critical difference, we do not see any strong reason stemming from the company's fundamentals that would cause a continuation of last year's decline. In fact, the stock is now selling for less than others in its industry in relation to its current earnings.

STOCKS TO BUY: TheStreet Quant Ratings has identified a handful of stocks that can potentially TRIPLE in the next 12-months. Learn more.

Statoil ASA

Dividend Yield: 4.10%

Statoil ASA (NYSE: STO) shares currently have a dividend yield of 4.10%.

Statoil ASA, an integrated energy company, engages in the exploration, production, transportation, refining, and marketing of petroleum and petroleum-derived products in Norway and internationally. The company has a P/E ratio of 7.11.

The average volume for Statoil ASA has been 1,895,800 shares per day over the past 30 days. Statoil ASA has a market cap of $68.5 billion and is part of the energy industry. Shares are down 13.7% year to date as of the close of trading on Wednesday.

TheStreet Ratings rates Statoil ASA as a buy. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its attractive valuation levels, good cash flow from operations, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures and expanding profit margins. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had somewhat weak growth in earnings per share.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly increased by 94.98% to $6,553.06 million when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, STATOIL ASA has also vastly surpassed the industry average cash flow growth rate of -26.07%.
  • The current debt-to-equity ratio, 0.31, is low and is below the industry average, implying that there has been successful management of debt levels. Although the company had a strong debt-to-equity ratio, its quick ratio of 0.96 is somewhat weak and could be cause for future problems.
  • 35.76% is the gross profit margin for STATOIL ASA which we consider to be strong. Regardless of STO's high profit margin, it has managed to decrease from the same period last year. Despite the mixed results of the gross profit margin, the net profit margin of 3.94% trails the industry average.
  • STO, with its decline in revenue, slightly underperformed the industry average of 10.8%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues fell by 18.8%. Weakness in the company's revenue seems to have hurt the bottom line, decreasing earnings per share.

STOCKS TO BUY: TheStreet Quant Ratings has identified a handful of stocks that can potentially TRIPLE in the next 12-months. Learn more.

MarkWest Energy Partners

Dividend Yield: 4.90%

MarkWest Energy Partners (NYSE: MWE) shares currently have a dividend yield of 4.90%.

Markwest Energy Partners, L.P., together with its subsidiaries, engages in the gathering, processing, and transportation of natural gas the United States. The company has a P/E ratio of 48.22.

The average volume for MarkWest Energy Partners has been 690,700 shares per day over the past 30 days. MarkWest Energy Partners has a market cap of $9.0 billion and is part of the energy industry. Shares are up 37.6% year to date as of the close of trading on Wednesday.

TheStreet Ratings rates MarkWest Energy Partners as a buy. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, expanding profit margins and solid stock price performance. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had sub par growth in net income.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • The revenue growth came in higher than the industry average of 10.8%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 7.3%. This growth in revenue does not appear to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, displayed by a decline in earnings per share.
  • 46.46% is the gross profit margin for MARKWEST ENERGY PARTNERS LP which we consider to be strong. It has increased from the same quarter the previous year. Regardless of the strong results of the gross profit margin, the net profit margin of -4.11% is in-line with the industry average.
  • MWE's share price has surged by 30.21% over the past year, reflecting the market's general trend, despite their weak earnings growth during the last quarter. We feel that the stock's sharp appreciation over the last year has driven it to a price level which is now somewhat expensive compared to the rest of its industry. The other strengths this company shows, however, justify the higher price levels.
  • MARKWEST ENERGY PARTNERS LP has exprienced a steep decline in earnings per share in the most recent quarter in comparison to its performance from the same quarter a year ago. This company has reported somewhat volatile earnings recently. We feel it is likely to report a decline in earnings in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, MARKWEST ENERGY PARTNERS LP increased its bottom line by earning $1.70 versus $0.80 in the prior year. For the next year, the market is expecting a contraction of 30.0% in earnings ($1.19 versus $1.70).
  • The debt-to-equity ratio of 1.06 is relatively high when compared with the industry average, suggesting a need for better debt level management. Even though the debt-to-equity ratio is weak, MWE's quick ratio is somewhat strong at 1.14, demonstrating the ability to handle short-term liquidity needs.

STOCKS TO BUY: TheStreet Quant Ratings has identified a handful of stocks that can potentially TRIPLE in the next 12-months. Learn more.

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