Should you snap up ~7% yielders Royal Dutch Shell plc, HSBC Holdings plc and Legal & General Group plc?

Today I’m running the rule over three of the FTSE 100’s (INDEXFTSE: UKX) biggest yielders.

Dividend dynamo

With new business flowing in from all over the world, I reckon Legal & General (LSE: LGEN) should make good on bumper dividend projections for the current period.

The number crunchers expect the insurance giant to pay a full-year dividend of 14.3p per share for 2016, producing a mammoth yield of 6.6%.

Legal & General saw assets under management canter 8% higher last year, to £746.1bn, its ability to navigate evolving social trends — like ageing populations and increasing digitalisation — as well as regulatory reforms allowing it to keep business moving higher.

On top of this, dividend seekers should also take heart from Legal & General’s ability to throw up plenty of cash. Net cash generation surged 14% last year, to £1.26bn.

I reckon the financial favourite is in great shape to deliver gigantic payouts in the near term and beyond.

Set to sink

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell (LSE: RDSB) continues to defy soothsayers predicting that colossal dividend cuts are just around the corner.

The company announced last week that profits on a current cost of supplies basis slumped to just $800m in January-March from $4.8bn a year earlier. As a result Shell has scaled back its capital expenditure targets yet again — the firm now expects to spend $30bn this year, down from its previous target of $33bn.

And Shell is far from out of the woods. On top of weak fossil fuel prices, the driller advised that “substantial redundancy and restructuring charges” — allied with planned maintenance shutdowns — are likely to bash performance during the current quarter.

These problems will see Shell lock the full-year dividend at 188 US cents per share in 2016, according to City forecasts, putting paid to the firm’s progressive dividend policy. But I reckon investors should give short shrift to these projections and the subsequent 7.2% yield.

The forecast dividend sails well above anticipated earnings of 108 cents per share. And with gearing running at a mammoth 26.1% following the BG Group acquisition, Shell doesn’t have the financial strength to pay out such vast dividends, in my opinion.

On the brink?

Like Shell, banking colossus HSBC (LSE: HSBA) is also drawing concerns from dividend-hungry investors over the scale of future payouts.

Fear surrounding economic cooling in Asia is casting a huge pall over earnings, and therefore dividend, expectations in the near-term and beyond. Indeed, the company saw pre-tax profits from its single largest region slump 10% during January-March, to $3.46bn.

HSBC has been able to wade through earnings turbulence and keep hiking the dividend in previous years. But concerns are rising that ‘The World’s Local Bank’ may struggle to keep this trend going as hulking PPI bills put extra pressure on its shaky balance sheet — the company’s CET1 ratio remained stagnant at 11.9% in the first quarter.

The City expects HSBC’s progressive dividend policy to screech to a halt too, with a predicted payment of 51 US cents per share for this year matching 2015’s reward.

I remain convinced that HSBC’s massive emerging market exposure should deliver resplendent long-term returns. But in the near term, investors should be aware that the bank’s huge 8% yield stands on shaky foundations.

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Royston Wild has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended HSBC Holdings and Royal Dutch Shell B. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.