3 High-Yield Dividend Stocks Billionaires Can’t Stop Buying

For more than a year, Wall Street has had investors on their heels. Last year featured the worst returns for the three major U.S. stock indexes since 2008, with the growth-focused Nasdaq Composite getting hit the hardest and losing a third of its value.

It's no secret that when stock market volatility and uncertainty pick up on Wall Street, the top money managers turn to dividend stocks. Companies that regularly dole out payments to their shareholders are almost always profitable and time-tested. Most importantly, income stocks have a phenomenal track record of outperforming non-dividend-paying stocks over long periods.

But there's a specific category of dividend stock that billionaires have been particularly attracted to: high-yield stocks (those with yields of 4% and above). Based on the latest round of Form 13F filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, billionaires can't stop buying the following three high-yield dividend stocks.

Ford Motor Company: 4.96% yield

The first high-yield dividend stock that's been irresistible to billionaire investors is Detroit auto giant Ford Motor Company (F).

Billionaires Israel Englander of Millennium Management, Jeff Yass of Susquehanna International, Ken Griffin of Citadel Advisors, and Jim Simons of Renaissance Technologies all piled into Ford in the December-ended quarter. In order, these successful fund managers respectively added approximately 9.57 million shares, 6.39 million shares, 6.21 million shares, and 5.72 million shares of Ford stock.

The likeliest reason for billionaires to be so bullish on Ford is the company's ongoing transformation to electric vehicles (EVs). Ford expects to outlay an aggregate of $50 billion through 2026 for EV and battery research and development. The goal is to introduce 30 new EV models globally by the end of 2025, as well as increase worldwide EV production from an estimated annual run-rate of 600,000 by the end of 2023 to more than 2 million by the end of 2026. 

Initial demand for Ford's EVs has been impressive, which probably has something to do with the company having more than a century of history behind its brand. For instance, Ford had to stop taking reservations for the all-electric F-150 Lightning in December 2021 because it had already amassed close to 200,000 orders. 

Though this transformation will be costly and take years, Ford's lineup of gas-and-diesel-powered vehicles continues to generate abundant cash flow and profits. The company's F-Series trucks have been America's best-selling vehicle (not truck, vehicle!) for the past 41 years. This cash flow is what allows Ford to comfortably dole out a 5% yield, as well as maintain a dividend of between 40% and 50% of free cash flow.

If there's a knock against Ford, it's that the company's own execution needs work. CEO Jim Farley came clean with shareholders that Ford “left about $2 billion in profits on the table” last year. If the company can lift production and remove supply chain snafus from the equation, skeptics can be put in their place.

Paramount Global: 4.83% yield

A second high-yield dividend stock that billionaire money managers can't stop buying is media stock Paramount Global (PARA).

The newest round of 13Fs showed that billionaires Jim Simons of Renaissance, Ken Griffin of Citadel, and Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway, were big-time buyers. These three money managers respectively purchased around 3.77 million shares, 3.53 million shares, and 2.42 million shares of Paramount Global stock.

The buzz surrounding Paramount has to do with the growth potential of its streaming platform. At the close of 2022, it had more than 77 million direct-to-consumer (DTC) subscribers. For some context, Paramount's streaming services have added 30 million DTC subs over the trailing five quarters (15 months). Last year, the company's DTC segment saw revenue climb 47%. 

Though all eyes are on Paramount+, which is up to 56 million global subs, it's Pluto TV that could be the company's key growth driver over the next year or two. Pluto TV is the nation's leading free streaming service. Free is an incredibly compelling price point when inflation is soaring and a number of recession-probability indicators suggest an economic downturn is on the way. Pluto TV added another 6.5 million subscribers during the December-ended quarter.

To add, Pluto TV's rapidly growing audience is bound to attract advertisers, which pay for the service. Even in a difficult economic climate, advertising revenue climbed 18% in Paramount's DTC segment in 2022, all thanks to Pluto TV. 

Paramount's film entertainment division also found new life in 2022. Top Gun: Maverick brought in nearly $1.5 billion globally, which helped to quintuple theatrical revenue from the previous year. 

Although Paramount Global could continue to be weighed down in the short-term by ad weakness in its core TV media segment, it looks well-positioned to thrive when the next bull market arrives.

AT&T: 6.02% yield

The third high-yield dividend stock billionaires can't stop buying is telecom juggernaut AT&T (T).

The latest 13F filings show that billionaires Ken Griffin of Citadel, and John Overdeck and David Siegel of Two Sigma Investments, were pretty busy hitting the buy button during the fourth quarter. Griffin's fund added nearly 2.03 million shares of AT&T, while Overdeck's and Siegel's fund picked up just over 1.4 million shares.

The lure that AT&T offers its shareholders during a bear market is stability. No matter what the U.S. economy throws at consumers, the vast majority are unwilling to give up their wireless access or smartphones. With wireless access and smartphones effectively becoming basic necessities, AT&T's churn rate remains low and its cash flow is highly predictable.

Despite being a mature company, AT&T does have two catalysts capable of boosting its organic growth rate. The first, and most prominent, is the ongoing rollout of 5G wireless infrastructure. This costly and time-consuming upgrade of its wireless infrastructure is resulting in users downloading more data. That's excellent news, because data is the core margin driver of the company's wireless segment.

The less-obvious growth catalyst for AT&T is its broadband operations. Thanks to AT&T Fiber, it's added at least 1 million net broadband customers in each of the past five years.  While broadband isn't the growth story it was 20 years ago, 5G speeds are providing a lure that's steadily building up its customer count, lifting operating cash flow, and encouraging high-margin bundling.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle moving forward for AT&T is its reliance on debt to fuel infrastructure upgrades. Though a decade of historically low lending rates helped spur upgrades, the Fed's rapid pace of rate hikes could stymie near-term growth opportunities, beyond simply updating its wireless infrastructure to support 5G speeds.

Nevertheless, with a 6% yield, AT&T looks incredibly cheap at less than 8 times Wall Street's consensus earnings

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Originally published on Fool.com

Sean Williams has positions in AT&T. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.