What To Hold: 3 Hold-Rated Dividend Stocks NKA, WHF, 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 "Hold."

Niska Gas Storage Partners

Dividend Yield: 9.70%

Niska Gas Storage Partners (NYSE: NKA) shares currently have a dividend yield of 9.70%.

Niska Gas Storage Partners LLC owns and operates natural gas storage assets in North America.

The average volume for Niska Gas Storage Partners has been 84,400 shares per day over the past 30 days. Niska Gas Storage Partners has a market cap of $521.9 million and is part of the utilities industry. Shares are down 3.4% year-to-date as of the close of trading on Tuesday.

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TheStreet Ratings rates Niska Gas Storage Partners as a hold. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its expanding profit margins and increase in stock price during the past year. However, as a counter to these strengths, we also find weaknesses including deteriorating net income, generally higher debt management risk and disappointing return on equity.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • The gross profit margin for NISKA GAS STORAGE PARTNERS is rather high; currently it is at 62.03%. 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 -34.25% is in-line with the industry average.
  • NKA, with its decline in revenue, slightly underperformed the industry average of 2.4%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly dropped by 3.2%. Weakness in the company's revenue seems to have hurt the bottom line, decreasing earnings per share.
  • In its most recent trading session, NKA 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, our view is that this company's fundamentals will not have much impact in either direction, allowing the stock to generally move up or down based on the push and pull of the broad market.
  • 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 Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry and the overall market, NISKA GAS STORAGE PARTNERS's return on equity significantly trails that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly decreased to -$76.90 million or 191.14% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, when comparing to the industry average, the firm's growth rate is much lower.

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WhiteHorse Finance

Dividend Yield: 9.90%

WhiteHorse Finance (NASDAQ: WHF) shares currently have a dividend yield of 9.90%.

Whitehorse Finance, LLC is a business development company. The company has a P/E ratio of 9.08.

The average volume for WhiteHorse Finance has been 53,000 shares per day over the past 30 days. WhiteHorse Finance has a market cap of $214.9 million and is part of the financial services industry. Shares are down 4.8% year-to-date as of the close of trading on Tuesday.

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TheStreet Ratings rates WhiteHorse Finance as a hold. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its compelling growth in net income, expanding profit margins and notable return on equity. However, as a counter to these strengths, we find that the stock has had a generally disappointing performance in the past year.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Capital Markets industry. The net income increased by 58.4% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $3.17 million to $5.02 million.
  • The gross profit margin for WHITEHORSE FINANCE INC is rather high; currently it is at 59.65%. Regardless of WHF's high profit margin, it has managed to decrease from the same period last year. Despite the mixed results of the gross profit margin, WHF's net profit margin of 55.63% significantly outperformed against the industry.
  • When compared to other companies in the Capital Markets industry and the overall market, WHITEHORSE FINANCE INC's return on equity is below that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • WHITEHORSE FINANCE INC reported significant earnings per share improvement 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. However, we anticipate underperformance relative to this pattern in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, WHITEHORSE FINANCE INC increased its bottom line by earning $1.26 versus $0.53 in the prior year. For the next year, the market is expecting a contraction of 9.5% in earnings ($1.14 versus $1.26).
  • In its most recent trading session, WHF 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. The fact that the stock is now selling for less than others in its industry in relation to its current earnings is not reason enough to justify a buy rating at this time.

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

Martin Midstream Partners

Dividend Yield: 8.10%

Martin Midstream Partners (NASDAQ: MMLP) shares currently have a dividend yield of 8.10%.

Martin Midstream Partners L.P. collects, transports, stores, and markets petroleum products and by-products in the United States Gulf Coast region.

The average volume for Martin Midstream Partners has been 127,600 shares per day over the past 30 days. Martin Midstream Partners has a market cap of $1.2 billion and is part of the energy industry. Shares are down 9.6% year-to-date as of the close of trading on Tuesday.

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

TheStreet Ratings rates Martin Midstream Partners as a hold. Among the primary strengths of the company is its revenue growth. At the same time, however, we also find weaknesses including deteriorating net income, disappointing return on equity and poor profit margins.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • The revenue growth came in higher than the industry average of 2.4%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues rose by 17.0%. 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.
  • MARTIN MIDSTREAM PARTNERS LP has experienced a steep decline in earnings per share in the most recent quarter in comparison to its performance from the same quarter a year ago. The company has reported a trend of declining earnings per share over the past two years. However, the consensus estimate suggests that this trend should reverse in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, MARTIN MIDSTREAM PARTNERS LP swung to a loss, reporting -$0.49 versus $1.33 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($1.52 versus -$0.49).
  • The share price of MARTIN MIDSTREAM PARTNERS LP has not done very well: it is down 11.98% and has underperformed the S&P 500, in part reflecting the company's sharply declining earnings per share when compared to the year-earlier quarter. Turning toward the future, the fact that the stock has come down in price over the past year should not necessarily be interpreted as a negative; it could be one of the factors that may help make the stock attractive down the road. Right now, however, we believe that it is too soon to buy.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly decreased to -$15.58 million or 321.70% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, when comparing to the industry average, the firm's growth rate is much lower.
  • The company, on the basis of change in net income from the same quarter one year ago, has significantly underperformed when compared to that of the S&P 500 and the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry. The net income has significantly decreased by 110.7% when compared to the same quarter one year ago, falling from $9.08 million to -$0.97 million.

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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