3 ASX value traps I wouldn't buy for dividends right now

I'd stay away from these shares if you don't want a nasty dividend surprise.

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Buying an ASX share and getting a fat dividend yield on your cash is one of the best parts of investing in the stock market. utilising not one, but two avenues of returns (share price growth and dividends) can enhance a portfolio's stability, as well as work wonders for an investor's long-term wealth. But, like most things in the investing world, securing a high dividend yield isn't always easy. One always needs to be on watch for the dreaded ASX value trap.

A value trap, or a dividend trap, is the name given to a dividend share offering a valuation that's enticingly low. This often also means that in a dividend shares case, the trailing dividend yield seemingly on offer is unusually high.

This can lure unwary investors in with the apparent promise of high cash flow from dividends, only for the company to cut or even cancel its dividends soon after. The sorry investor is left with a dividend share that is not yielding anything like what was expected, often alongside a significant capital loss from a commensurate fall in share price.

So we don't want that. As such, today I'm going to discuss three dividend stocks that I think have a good chance of being ASX value traps right now.

3 ASX value traps that dividend investors should avoid

Woodside Energy Group Ltd (ASX: WDS)

First up is ASX 200 oil and energy giant Woodside Energy Group. Right now, Woodside shares are seemingly trading on a hefty dividend yield of 7.60%. That comes with full franking credits attached.

Woodside is an energy company, which means its profits (and therefore dividends) are highly dependent on the going price of crude oil.

Oil has been trading at historically elevated prices over the past couple of years. But this is a highly cyclical commodity that is famous for its peaks and troughs. Remember that time oil actually went negative during 2020 as the pandemic took hold.

That was a one-off event, but just look at this company's dividend history, and you'll see how unreliable it has been as a dividend payer. Sure, 2023 saw the company dole out $2.63 in dividends per share. But in 2018, investors received just $1.35 per share.

As such, I would be highly wary of buying Woodside shares today if you are after a secure and stable yield on your cash. It's a quality company to be sure. But it might also be a dividend trap if oil prices take a plunge.

Magellan Financial Group Ltd (ASX: MFG)

Next, we have ASX 200 fund manager Magellan. Like Woodside, Magellan shares are currently boasting a dividend yield of 7.60%.

However, one look at the Magellan share price should wave the ASX value trap red flag in investors' minds.

Magellan is a company that has been in freefall for a few years now. A series of scandals that have unfolded since 2021 have resulted in Magellan enduring a huge loss of confidence from its investors, as well as funds under management.

There are signs that the company has hit a bottom. But it will arguably take a long time for Magellan to get back to its former glory if indeed it is capable of doing so. Magellan has cut its dividend substantially every year since 2021. 2022's interim dividend came in at $1.14 cents per share. But 2023's was worth 46.9 cents per share, and 2024 saw investors receive just 29.4 cents.

As such, I don't think there's a high likelihood of actually receiving a yield of over 7% if you buy Magellan stock right now. That makes it a potential ASX value trap in my mind.

WAM Capital Ltd (ASX: WAM)

A final potential ASX value trap worth mentioning today is listed investment company (LIC) WAM Capital.

WAM Capital has long outed its dividend prowess, and its shares trade on a yield of 10.40% today. However, I also think there's a good chance this won't be around for too long. For one, its most recent update told investors that the LIC had just 22.6 cents per share left in its profit and dividend reserve.

That's only enough for two more dividends if the company wishes to pay out the same 7.75 cents per share biannual payment that investors have been enjoying for the past six years.

But WAM Capital has a very poor history of delivering share price growth for investors too. Over the past five years, the WAM Capital share price has collapsed by 25.5%. As such, I think there is a lot of risk in investing in this company today if you want capital stability and reliable income.

Motley Fool contributor Sebastian Bowen has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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