Imagine that you are the CEO of a major corporation, which is sitting on a lot of cash. You are desperate to find some use for this cash, in order to justify a bigger bonus for yourself, and in order to grow the company you are managing. One of the things you can do is start a new division, invent a new product or try to expand organically. However, this is risky, since there is absolutely no guarantee that the expansion, or the new product will be a success. Another option is to acquire an existing business, which already has the products or services that customers want, is available at a good price, has a unique competitive position, and which also manages to earn a lot of profit s every year, while drowning shareholders in cash. It does seem like a lower risk proposition to acquire that business. Of course, if those managements have the discipline to pay a regular dividend to shareholders, they would have much less money for squandering, which would limit their focus to only the best ideas with the most potential for return on investment. But this is a topic of a whole other article.
The business to be acquired that I just described at a very high level is essentially what most dividend growth companies represent. A business that manages to grow dividends every year for a long time, indicates in many cases a business which manages to earn more profits over time. This is an attractive business to invest in, whether you are an acquirer or an ordinary mom and pop investor, provided valuation is not excessive. Thus, dividend growth stocks make great acquisitions.
In most cases however, shareholders would have been better off simply holding on to the companies they are owning and collecting a growing a stream of dividend checks with the passing of every single year. Unfortunately, many shareholders these days have an extremely short-term holding horizon, which is why they approve of those deals to earn a quick buck, while sacrificing future potential.
This is why I believe that even for long-term passive buy and hold dividend investors, it is highly unlikely that their portfolios will be static over a 20 – 30 year time period. A portfolio of dividend growth stocks selected in 2014 will likely look much different in 2044. Contrary to popular belief however, this is not because of a high failure rate in dividend growth stocks. The reason is because a large portion of dividend growth stocks are indeed attractive acquisition or merger partners. When you are the prettiest girl at the prom, odds are much higher that more than one person will ask you to dance with them. Same is true with those dividend growth stocks, which make excellent merger partners or great acquisitions to tap into. As for failure rates, based on historical research I have conducted, only a small portion of companies fail outright.
When I look at the dividend aristocrats list from 25 years ago, I notice that there are a lot of companies that are no longer here. As I mentioned in the earlier paragraph, this is because a large part of those companies either were acquired or merged. As a passive investor, I seldom sell. However, if the company that acquired my dividend holdings pays me cash for my stock, I will have to dispose of my shares. This is what happened with Anheuser Busch in 2008, when it was acquired for $70/share by InBev. This is also what happened to Rohm & Haas in 2009, when it was acquired by Dow Chemical (DOW). Nowadays, this is what is happening to Family Dollar Stores (FDO), which is being acquired by Dollar Tree for mostly in cash. Only a small portion of acquisition will be paid in stock, thus triggering a taxable event. Because I expected more in taxable income in 2015, that will potentially put me in a higher tax bracket, it made sense for me to sell today, as much as I don’t want to get any tax waste.
Based on my tax situation, it made more sense to sell my Family Dollar holdings in taxable accounts this year. For any tax-deferred accounts, I would simply hold on to the shares I receive, but reinvest the cash I receive in other quality companies selling at attractive valuations. Thus, I am saving on one commission, rather than sell all the stock, then buy another stock. In an essence I am holding in my retirement account, and then when the cash is paid, I can use it to buy other shares. At the same time I will probably keep the Dollar Tree shares, despite the fact that they won’t pay a dividend.
Of course, the issue with selling was that I missed out on the bidding war from Dollar General. The problem is that Dollar General’s offer, while a few dollars per share higher, was all in cash. Whoever acquires Family Dollar, will reward their shareholders tremendously, because they are paying for a great asset with cash that costs very little today. If you add in synergies expected, that deal will result in great returns for Dollar Tree or Dollar General shareholders, depending on who ends up owning Family Dollar stores.
Full Disclosure: Long FDO
- Dividend Stocks make great acquisitions
- I bought this quality dividend paying stock last week
- Dividend Stocks make great acquisitions
- Where are the original Dividend Aristocrats now?
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