Billionaire John Paulson's Top 5 Picks Paying Dividends

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Several weeks after the end of each quarter, major investors are required to disclose many of their long equity positions in U.S. stocks in 13F filings. We track these filings for a variety of purposes, including to help us develop investing strategies (we have found, for example, that the most popular small cap stocks among hedge funds outperform the S&P 500 by an average of 18 percentage points per year). We can also see top picks from individual managers in a number of areas, including dividend stocks, so that investors can take a brief look and decide whether or not a company is worthy of further research. Here are five stocks from billionaire Mario Gabelli's GAMCO Investors as of the end of December (many of its positions showed little change over Q4) with dividend yields of 3% or higher based on current prices and dividend levels (or see the full list of stocks that GAMCO reported owning):

The fund reported a position of 5 million shares in Ryman Hospitality Properties RHP, >+1.45% a real-estate investment trust which operates resort and convention center facilities under the Gaylord brand as well as several local Nashville attractions. REITs receive preferential tax status as long as they distribute a large share of their taxable income to shareholders, which often results in high dividend yields; Ryman pays a dividend yield of 4.4%. Billionaire John Paulson's Paulson & Co. increased the size of its position in Ryman during the fourth quarter of 2012 to a total of 4.3 million shares (check out Paulson's stock picks).

Gabelli and his team disclosed ownership of 9.7 million shares of Cablevision US:CVC at the end of 2012. The $3.8 billion market cap company, which operates a TV/data/voice business as well as a number of media properties, pays a dividend yield of 4%. However, the stock trades at 16 times trailing earnings and- while net income did grow in percentage terms in its most recent quarter compared with the same period in the previous year, revenue was down slightly. Analysts expect net income to decline over the next couple of years. Billionaire David Shaw's D.E. Shaw cut its stake but still owned 1.7 million shares according to its own 13F.

General Mills GIS, >+1.35% was another of Gabelli's stock picks with the filing showing 2.9 million shares in his portfolio. General Mills stands out for having essentially no relationship with the broader economy; the stock's beta is 0.03. There is also a decent dividend yield (3.1%), making it a good defensive pick. Of course, the flip side to the company's stability is that we'd expect earnings growth to be low going forward, and given that fact the trailing P/E of 18 might be a bit high. Ric Dillon's Diamond Hill Capital owned 3.7 million shares of General Mills at the end of 2012. Billionaires David Harding, Ray Dalio, and Richard Chilton are also among GIS shareholders.

GAMCO trimmed its stake in Dr Pepper Snapple DPS, >+1.01% by a small amount, to 2.5 million shares as of the end of December. Statistically, the soft drink company actually posts a negative beta (-0.2) and so clearly Dr Pepper Snapple doesn't need a strong economy to prosper either. Its dividend yield is about even with that of General Mills, at 3.2%.We'd note that the trailing P/E of 16 represents a discount to larger soda companies, though at least in its last quarterly report versus a year earlier there was little growth. Billionaire Ken Griffin's Citadel Investment Group was another major shareholder (research more stocks Griffin likes).

According to the 13F, the fund owned 3.5 million shares of Diebold DBD, >-2.33% the $1.8 billion market cap provider of ATMs, other self-service kiosks, voting machines, and security services, among other products. The stock is down 24% in the last year on struggling operations (which have caused the dividend yield to rise to 3.9%; Wall Street analysts expect a recovery and so the forward P/E is 13. In early March we reported on an insider purchase at the company (read our analysis of the insider purchase at Diebold).

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