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Will Yamana Gold Help You Retire Rich?

Tuesday - 1/1/2013, 12:28am  ET

Now more than ever, a comfortable retirement depends on secure, stable investments. Unfortunately, the right stocks for retirement won't just fall into your lap. In this series, I look at 10 measures to show what makes a great retirement-oriented stock.

The idea of having a gold miner in a retirement portfolio has gained traction in the past 10 years, as a big bull market in gold has supported much better returns for top gold stocks than for the stock market at large. Yamana Gold stands out among gold miners because of its healthy dividend, but is it a smart buy right now? Below, we'll revisit how Yamana Gold does on our 10-point scale.

The right stocks for retirees
With decades to go before you need to tap your investments, you can take greater risks, weighing the chance of big losses against the potential for mind-blowing returns. But as retirement approaches, you no longer have the luxury of waiting out a downturn.

Sure, you still want good returns, but you also need to manage your risk and protect yourself against bear markets, which can maul your finances at the worst possible time. The right stocks combine both of these elements in a single investment.

When scrutinizing a stock, retirees should look for:

  • Size. Most retirees would rather not take a flyer on unproven businesses. Bigger companies may lack their smaller counterparts' growth potential, but they do offer greater security.
  • Consistency. While many investors look for fast-growing companies, conservative investors want to see steady, consistent gains in revenue, free cash flow, and other key metrics. Slow growth won't make headlines, but it will help prevent the kind of ugly surprises that suddenly torpedo a stock's share price.
  • Stock stability. Conservative retirement investors prefer investments that move less dramatically than typical stocks, and they particularly want to avoid big losses. These investments will give up some gains during bull markets, but they won't fall as far or as fast during bear markets. Beta measures volatility, but we also want a track record of solid performance as well.
  • Valuation. No one can afford to pay too much for a stock, even if its prospects are good. Using normalized earnings multiples helps smooth out one-time effects, giving you a longer-term context.
  • Dividends. Most of all, retirees look for stocks that can provide income through dividends. Retirees want healthy payouts now and consistent dividend growth over time -- as long as it doesn't jeopardize the company's financial health.

With those factors in mind, let's take a closer look at Yamana Gold.

Factor

What We Want to See

Actual

Pass or Fail?

Size

Market cap > $10 billion

$12.6 billion

Pass

Consistency

Revenue growth > 0% in at least four of five past years

4 years

Pass

 

Free cash flow growth > 0% in at least four of past five years

3 years

Fail

Stock stability

Beta < 0.9

1.04

Fail

 

Worst loss in past five years no greater than 20%

(40.3%)

Fail

Valuation

Normalized P/E < 18

23.65

Fail

Dividends

Current yield > 2%

1.6%

Fail

 

5-year dividend growth > 10%

41.3%

Pass

 

Streak of dividend increases >= 10 years

3 years

Fail

 

Payout ratio < 75%

42.1%

Pass

       
 

Total score

 

4 out of 10

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Total score = number of passes.

Since we looked at Yamana Gold last year, its score has dropped by a point, as free cash flow sank from last year's levels. But the stock has actually held up extremely well in a generally terrible year for mining companies, with Yamana rising about 10% over the past year.

The secret to Yamana's success has been finding ways to keep growing even when its rivals are faltering. In its most recent quarter, it boosted production by 11% to a record level of more than 310,000 gold-equivalent ounces.

Yamana has faced some of the same headwinds that the entire industry has had to deal with. Rising costs have pushed up expenses extensively, especially when you consider that cash costs of production net of byproduct sales more than doubled from the previous year's quarter. Still, it is extremely competitive on cost, missing low-cost Eldorado Gold but besting most of its other industry peers.

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