3 Buy-Rated Dividend Stocks Taking The Lead: SPH, SUNS, MMLP

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 which could 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."

Suburban Propane Partners

Dividend Yield: 7.80%

Suburban Propane Partners (NYSE: SPH) shares currently have a dividend yield of 7.80%.

Suburban Propane Partners, L.P., through its subsidiaries, is engaged in the retail marketing and distribution of propane, fuel oil, and refined fuels. The company has a P/E ratio of 29.80.

The average volume for Suburban Propane Partners has been 169,800 shares per day over the past 30 days. Suburban Propane Partners has a market cap of $2.7 billion and is part of the utilities industry. Shares are down 3.9% year-to-date as of the close of trading on Friday.

TheStreet Ratings rates Suburban Propane Partners as a buy. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its growth in earnings per share, robust revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures and increase in net income. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had lackluster performance in the stock itself.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • SUBURBAN PROPANE PRTNRS -LP has improved earnings per share by 9.3% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past year. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, SUBURBAN PROPANE PRTNRS -LP increased its bottom line by earning $1.44 versus $0.48 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($2.11 versus $1.44).
  • Despite its growing revenue, the company underperformed as compared with the industry average of 35.9%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 28.8%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • Even though the current debt-to-equity ratio is 1.05, it is still below the industry average, suggesting that this level of debt is acceptable within the Gas Utilities industry. Despite the fact that SPH's debt-to-equity ratio is mixed in its results, the company's quick ratio of 1.79 is high and demonstrates strong liquidity.
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has exceeded that of the S&P 500, but is less than that of the Gas Utilities industry average. The net income increased by 15.5% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $129.49 million to $149.55 million.
  • The gross profit margin for SUBURBAN PROPANE PRTNRS -LP is currently lower than what is desirable, coming in at 25.92%. It has decreased from the same quarter the previous year. Regardless of the weak results of the gross profit margin, the net profit margin of 17.11% is above that of the industry average.

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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