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

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 "Sell."

Windstream Holdings

Dividend Yield: 13.20%

Windstream Holdings (NASDAQ: WIN) shares currently have a dividend yield of 13.20%.

Windstream Holdings, Inc. provides communications and technology solutions in the United States. It offers managed services and cloud computing services to businesses, as well as broadband, voice, and video services to consumers primarily in rural markets.

The average volume for Windstream Holdings has been 7,411,100 shares per day over the past 30 days. Windstream Holdings has a market cap of $4.5 billion and is part of the telecommunications industry. Shares are down 8.1% year-to-date as of the close of trading on Wednesday.

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TheStreet Ratings rates Windstream Holdings as a sell. The company's weaknesses can be seen in multiple areas, such as its deteriorating net income, generally high debt management risk, disappointing return on equity, weak operating cash flow and generally disappointing historical performance in the stock itself.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • 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 Diversified Telecommunication Services industry. The net income has significantly decreased by 165.4% when compared to the same quarter one year ago, falling from $118.40 million to -$77.50 million.
  • The debt-to-equity ratio is very high at 38.72 and currently higher than the industry average, implying increased risk associated with the management of debt levels within the company. Along with this, the company manages to maintain a quick ratio of 0.33, which clearly demonstrates the inability to cover short-term cash needs.
  • Return on equity has greatly decreased when compared to its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a signal of major weakness within the corporation. Compared to other companies in the Diversified Telecommunication Services industry and the overall market, WINDSTREAM HOLDINGS INC's return on equity significantly trails that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • Net operating cash flow has declined marginally to $354.70 million or 1.11% when compared to the same quarter last year. Despite a decrease in cash flow WINDSTREAM HOLDINGS INC is still fairing well by exceeding its industry average cash flow growth rate of -27.10%.
  • In its most recent trading session, WIN 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. 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.

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Linn Energy

Dividend Yield: 10.90%

Linn Energy (NASDAQ: LINE) shares currently have a dividend yield of 10.90%.

Linn Energy, LLC, an independent oil and natural gas company, acquires and develops oil and natural gas properties in the Unites States.

The average volume for Linn Energy has been 4,845,300 shares per day over the past 30 days. Linn Energy has a market cap of $3.8 billion and is part of the energy industry. Shares are up 13.9% year-to-date as of the close of trading on Wednesday.

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TheStreet Ratings rates Linn Energy as a sell. The company's weaknesses can be seen in multiple areas, such as its generally high debt management risk, poor profit margins and generally disappointing historical performance in the stock itself.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • The debt-to-equity ratio is very high at 2.27 and currently higher than the industry average, implying increased risk associated with the management of debt levels within the company. Along with this, the company manages to maintain a quick ratio of 0.48, which clearly demonstrates the inability to cover short-term cash needs.
  • The gross profit margin for LINN ENERGY LLC is currently extremely low, coming in at 5.01%. Despite the low profit margin, it has increased significantly from the same period last year. Despite the mixed results of the gross profit margin, LINE's net profit margin of -6.96% significantly underperformed when compared to the industry average.
  • LINE's stock share price has done very poorly compared to where it was a year ago: Despite any rallies, the net result is that it is down by 62.48%, which is also worse that the performance of the S&P 500 Index. Investors have so far failed to pay much attention to the earnings improvements the company has managed to achieve over the last quarter. Naturally, the overall market trend is bound to be a significant factor. However, in one sense, the stock's sharp decline last year is a positive for future investors, making it cheaper (in proportion to its earnings over the past year) than most other stocks in its industry. But due to other concerns, we feel the stock is still not a good buy right now.
  • The return on equity has improved slightly when compared to the same quarter one year prior. This can be construed as a modest strength in the organization. Compared to other companies in the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry and the overall market, LINN ENERGY LLC's return on equity significantly trails that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • Net operating cash flow has increased to $276.08 million or 22.32% when compared to the same quarter last year. The firm also exceeded the industry average cash flow growth rate of -11.94%.

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CVR Refining

Dividend Yield: 7.70%

CVR Refining (NYSE: CVRR) shares currently have a dividend yield of 7.70%.

CVR Refining, LP operates as a petroleum refiner in the United States. The company has a P/E ratio of 7.92.

The average volume for CVR Refining has been 573,700 shares per day over the past 30 days. CVR Refining has a market cap of $2.8 billion and is part of the energy industry. Shares are up 17.6% year-to-date as of the close of trading on Wednesday.

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TheStreet Ratings rates CVR Refining as a sell. The company's weaknesses can be seen in multiple areas, such as its generally disappointing historical performance in the stock itself, feeble growth in its earnings per share and disappointing return on equity.

Highlights from the ratings report include:
  • In its most recent trading session, CVRR 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.
  • CVR REFINING LP's earnings per share improvement from the most recent quarter was slightly positive. 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, CVR REFINING LP reported lower earnings of $2.44 versus $4.00 in the prior year. For the next year, the market is expecting a contraction of 2.9% in earnings ($2.37 versus $2.44).
  • Return on equity has greatly decreased when compared to its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a signal of major weakness within the corporation. In comparison to other companies in the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry and the overall market on the basis of return on equity, CVR REFINING LP has underperformed in comparison with the industry average, but has greatly exceeded that of the S&P 500.
  • CVRR, with its decline in revenue, slightly underperformed the industry average of 19.8%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues fell by 24.9%. The declining revenue has not hurt the company's bottom line, with increasing earnings per share.
  • The current debt-to-equity ratio, 0.40, is low and is below the industry average, implying that there has been successful management of debt levels. Along with the favorable debt-to-equity ratio, the company maintains an adequate quick ratio of 1.30, which illustrates the ability to avoid short-term cash problems.

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