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3 Neil Woodford High-Yield Picks: GlaxoSmithKline plc, NEXT plc And Legal & General Group Plc

Top fund manager Neil Woodford is not one for chasing high yields that subsequently prove unsustainable. He was out of banks well before the credit crunch smashed payouts in the sector, and he’s dodged the current round of slashed dividends in the mining industry.

But he does hold some stocks that offer yields well above the market average. His FTSE 100 heavyweights with the highest payouts are GlaxoSmithKline (LSE: GSK), Next (LSE: NXT) and Legal & General (LSE: LGEN).

Pharma favourite

Glaxo is set to return to earnings growth in 2016 after a number of difficult years. In its results for 2015, released earlier this month, the company reported a decline in core earnings of 15% (at constant exchange rates). This was actually a little better than guidance, but even more welcome was management’s expectation of double-digit growth in 2016.

The integration of new businesses in Vaccines and Consumer Healthcare, the restructuring of the Global Pharmaceuticals division and the acceleration of new product sales should all drive earnings upwards in coming years. In fact, new product sales are now expected to reach management’s £6bn target up to two years earlier than previously guided (2018, rather than 2020).

The board has reiterated its intention to pay a flat 80p dividend for 2016 and 2017, giving an annual yield of 5.8% at a recent share price of 1,386p. With dividend cover improving as earnings growth kicks in, payouts should then be able to resume a healthy upwards trajectory.

Fashion focus

High street stalwart Next has yet to release results for its financial year ended 30 January, but has provided a trading update. The company said an unseasonably warm November and December would drag full-year sales down to just below the bottom end of previous guidance, but that profit was still on track thanks to good control of margins, costs and stock.

The company has paid out 153p of ordinary dividends during the fiscal year and 230p of special dividends, giving a total running yield of 5.7% at a recent share price of 6,750p. Special dividends (and share buybacks) are an ongoing feature of Next’s focus on delivering value to shareholders. And an increase in payouts is forecast for the year to January 2017, lifting the yield to 6%.

Insurance income

Analysts expect Legal & General to declare a final dividend of 9.9p when it announces its annual results on 15 March. Added to the last interim payout of 3.45p, this gives 13.35p, and a yield of 6.1% at a recent share price of 218p. Expected growth drives the forecast yield for 2016 up to 6.5%.

Something of a changing of the guard is underway at Legal & General, with separate announcements of the retirement of both the chairman and finance director having been made in recent months. Investors have also been a little unnerved by L&G’s potential exposure to bonds in the troubled oil and mining sectors. However, the company detailed its limited exposure to these sectors earlier this month.

Woodford and his team remain “very positive on the prospect of consistent and attractive long-term dividend growth”.

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G A Chester has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended GlaxoSmithKline. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.