Thursday, October 19, 2017

Rising Earnings – The Source of Future Dividend Growth

Successful dividend investors understand that a steadily rising dividend payment only tells half of the story. Most dividend paying companies that have been able to consistently raise distributions for at least one decade have enjoyed a steady pattern of earnings during that period of time.

As a dividend growth investor, my goal is to find attractively valued stocks that consistently grow their dividends. I run screens on the list of dividend champions and contenders using my secret entry criteria, and then look at the list company by company. Not surprisingly, I look for a record of increasing dividends. But I look for much more than that in a company.

In a previous article I discussed the three stages that dividend growth companies generally exist in. My goal is to focus on those in the second stage, although I might occasionally select a company from the first phase. However, I try to buy not just companies that have a record of raising dividends, but those that have decent odds of continuing that streak for the next 20 – 30 years. Not every company will achieve that, but for those that do, they would generate the bulk of portfolio dividend growth. The hidden source of dividend growth potential is expected earnings growth.

As you can tell from looking at my stock analysis reports, I look for companies that can increase earnings per share over time. Rising earnings per share can essentially provide the fuel behind future dividend growth. For example, Colgate-Palmolive (CL) has increased dividends for 53 years in a row. The company has managed to increase EPS from $1.17 in 2004 to $2.72/share for 2016. This has allowed the company to increase annual dividends from $0.48/share in 2004 to $1.55/share. The rest has been invested back into the business, to fuel potential for more earnings growth.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Should I invest in General Mills?

General Mills, Inc. is a manufacturer and marketer of branded consumer foods sold through retail stores. The Company is a supplier of branded and unbranded food products to the North American foodservice and commercial baking industries. The Company has three segments: U.S. Retail, International, and Convenience Stores and Foodservice.

Today we are going to evaluate General Mills (GIS) against these simple four filters. In general:

1. I look for quality companies (evidenced by a long streak annual dividend increases)
2. I want them at an attractive valuation
3. I want EPS growth, to ensure future dividend growth and growth in intrinsic value over time
4. I want an adequate margin of safety in dividends

General Mills is a dividend achiever which has increased dividends to shareholders for 14 years in a row. The company and its predecessors have paid dividends without interruption for 119 years. Over the past decade, General Mills has managed to hike annual dividends at a rate of 10.40%/year.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

How to determine if your dividends are safe

As dividend growth investors, our goal is to buy shares in a company that will shower us with cash for decades to come.

One of the important things to look out for in our evaluation of companies involves determining the safety of that dividend payment.

A quick check to determine dividend safety is by looking at the dividend payout ratio. This metric shows what percentage of earnings are paid out in dividends to shareholders.

In general, the lower this metric, the better. As a quick rule of thumb, I view dividend payout ratios below 60% as sustainable. A lower payout is always a plus, since it leaves room for consistent dividend growth minimizing the impact of short-term fluctuations in earnings.

For example, dividend king 3M (MMM) earned $8.16/share in 2016 and paid out $4.44 in annual dividend income per share. The dividend payout ratio is a safe 54%. This means that this dividend king is likely to continue rewarding its long-term shareholders with a dividend increase into the future. This will further extend 3M's streak of 59 consecutive annual dividend increases.

However, there are exceptions to the 60% payout ratio rule.

For example, companies in certain industries such as utilities have strong and defensible earnings streams. In addition, they can afford to distribute a higher portion of earnings as dividends to shareholders due to the stability of their business model.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Two Dividend Growth Stocks On My Radar

As part of my process, I tend to screen the list of dividend growth stocks regularly, in order to identify companies for further research. I also skim company press releases for announcements related to earnings and dividends. I was able to identify two dividend growth stocks, which seem to have been punished excessively as of recently. Those companies include Walgreen and CVS.

Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. (WBA) operates as a pharmacy-led health and wellbeing company. It operates through three segments: Retail Pharmacy USA, Retail Pharmacy International, and Pharmaceutical Wholesale. The company is a dividend champion, which has managed to raise dividends to shareholders for 42 years in a row. The ten year dividend growth rate is 17.80%/year. Walgreens Boots Alliance has managed to grow earnings per share from $2.03 in 2007 to $3.82 in 2016. Forward estimates are for $5/share in 2017. Currently, the stock is attractively valued at 18.30 times earnings and yields 2.30%. Check my analysis of Walgreens for more information about the company.

CVS Health Corporation (CVS) provides integrated pharmacy health care services. It operates through Pharmacy Services and Retail/LTC segments. The company is a dividend achiever, which has managed to boost its dividend for 14 years in a row. The ten year dividend growth rate is 27%/year. CVS Health has managed to grow earnings per share from $1.90 in 2007 to $4.90 in 2016. Forward estimates are for $5.88/share in 2017. Currently, the stock is attractively valued at 15.20 times earnings and yields 2.70. Check my analysis of CVS Health for more information about the company.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Three Companies Rewarding Shareholders With a Raise

As dividend growth investors we are trying to identify quality companies with an established track record of annual dividend dividend increases, which are growing earnings, have sustainable dividends, and are available at an attractive valuation. If we identify enough such companies to add to our portfolio, we will be able to generate a sufficient stream of income to live off in retirement.

I identify such companies as part of my screening process, and as part of my monitoring process.

As part of my monitoring process, I review the list of dividend increases every week. I go through this exercise, in order to check if the companies I own are going to pay me more for owning them. I also use it to uncover hidden dividend gems for further research. Most importantly, this exercise is helpful as an educational tool, used best to reiterate what we are really looking for as investors.

The companies that recently announced their intention to reward shareholders with a raise include Honeywell International (HON), RPM International (RPM) and Northwest Natural Gas Company (NWN).

RPM International Inc. (RPM) manufactures, markets, and sells specialty chemical products for industrial, specialty, and consumer markets worldwide.The company raised its quarterly dividend by 6.70% to 32 cents/share. This marked the 44th consecutive annual dividend increase for this dividend champion.

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