Revealed: 3 ASX companies paying 9% dividends

These three stocks come with massive dividend yields, but are they sustainable?

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The following three stocks currently trade on dividend yields of more than 9%.

Brisbane based ERM Power Ltd (ASX: EPW) is an electricity producer and retailer with core operations in Australia and a growing US division. The company has become one of the biggest electricity retailers for large organisations in Australia by focusing on customer service and is now replicating this success with small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

In the past year it has declared 12 cents of dividends translating to a dividend yield of 12.8% at current prices. Dividends could fall in future periods as the company's pay-out ratio in 2016 was 153.8% of underlying earnings-per-share (EPS). This appears to be why the stock is trading on such a high yield.

Profits are likely to fall in 2017 as increased competition in Australia is expected to shrink margins more than offsetting growth in the US. However, longer term if ERM can replicate its effective marketing strategy stateside then the company will have a bright future.

Accounting and financial planning group Countplus Ltd (ASX: CUP) currently pays a two cent dividend each quarter equating to a dividend yield of 10.1%. Unlike ERM, Count's dividends are fully franked.

The company is in the process of selling partial equity to the principals that run its practices through its Direct Equity Plan (DEP). This is a smart move as it better aligns the interests of those running subsidiaries with the parent. AUB Group Ltd (ASX: AUB) has successfully executed a similar model in the insurance broking industry.

Count was an early shareholder in Class Ltd (ASX: CL1) and held 5.4% of the company when it listed in December 2015. At 30 June, these shares were valued at $3.30 delivering a $16.3 million fair value gain in 2016. Since then Class shares have climbed to $4.10, but Count has started to sell down its holding.

Aside from gains from the Class investment, the underlying Count business went backwards in 2016. Revenue fell 0.9%, costs rose and by my estimates underlying profitability from the core operations was less than dividends paid and declared during the year.

TV producer and distributor Beyond International Ltd (ASX: BYI) reported total dividends of 10 cents per share in 2016 and so the stock currently trades on an unfranked dividend yield of 9.3%. Like the other two companies in this article, Beyond declared higher dividends than earnings last year suggesting that current yields are unsustainable.

Beyond's core business is TV production and MythBusters is probably its most successful show. The company is also involved in distribution and digital marketing.

The Digital Marketing division swung from a profit to a loss in 2016 and the segment has been a drag on group profits since its formation. I am unsure why Beyond persists with this business as it does not seem to fit with its core competency of making TV programs.

As consumers increasingly choose to watch TV online through streaming services such as Netflix, Beyond's distribution divisions look set to struggle, particularly its DVD business. This technological shift may also provide the company with an opportunity to sell its programs to a greater international audience. Overall, regardless of the distribution medium the quality of Beyond's shows will determine its future success.

Foolish takeaway

These three companies trade on very high yields because their current dividends are unlikely to be sustainable. However, pay-outs to shareholders shouldn't fall that much since all three businesses have low debt levels, generate decent returns on equity and have been profitable for a number of years.

Motley Fool contributor Matt Brazier has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewBrazier1 The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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