Monday, September 28, 2009

McDonald’s Delivers Strong Dividend Growth

Several companies raised distributions last week. The most notable raiser was fast food chain McDonald’s (MCD), which surprised investors with a 10% dividend increase. This marked the 33rd consecutive annual dividend increase for this Oak Brook, Illinois based dividend aristocrat.

McDonald's Chief Executive Officer Jim Skinner said, "So far in 2009 we've returned nearly $4.0 billion to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases, bringing total cash returned since the beginning of 2007 to about $15.5 billion. With today's dividend increase, we expect to end the year near the high end of our three-year, $15 billion to $17 billion total cash return target."
Skinner continued, "This achievement reflects the success of our better, not just bigger strategy, which has helped drive sales, profits and, ultimately, cash from operations. Going forward, our philosophy on our use of capital remains unchanged. Our first priority is to reinvest to grow our business and enhance shareholder value. After these investment opportunities, we expect to return all of our free cash flow over the long term through dividends and share repurchases -- while maintaining a strong financial foundation. Today's dividend increase underscores our confidence in the long-term strength of our business and ongoing commitment to returning cash to shareholders."

The golden arches have definitely weathered the economic storm relatively unscattered, with monthly sales consistently marking comparable gains. I recently added to my position in McDonald’s (MCD), as I believe that the company posseses strong dividend growth characteristics. The company has more than doubled its dividends since 2006.

Several other companies announced increase in distributions:

Lockheed Martin Corporation (LMT), Lockheed Martin Corporation engages in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration, and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products, and services in the United States and internationally., increased its quarterly dividend by 10.50% to 63 cents per share. Lockheed Martin Corporationi has increased its quarterly dividend in each of the past six years. The stock currently yields 2.90%.

Sanderson Farms, Inc. (SAFM), which Sanderson Farms, Inc., an integrated poultry processing company, engages in the production, processing, marketing, and distribution of fresh, frozen, processed, and prepared chicken products in the United States., increased its quarterly dividend by 7% to 15 cents per share. Sanderson Farms, Inc. doesn’t follow a path of regular annual dividend increases that I prefer in a dividend stock.

ConAgra Foods, Inc. (CAG), which operates as a food company in North America and internationally, increased its quarterly dividend by 5% to 20 cents per share. This is the third dividend increase for ConAgra Foods, Inc. since the company cut its distributions in 2006. The stock currently yields 3.50%.

Chimera Investment Corporation (CIM), which invests in residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS), residential mortgage loans, real estate-related securities, asset backed securities (ABS), increased its quarterly dividend by 50% to 12 cents per share. Chimera Investment Corporation is a relativelyshort dividend history, which started in 2007. The dividend payment seems to be fluctuating a lot, which is not something to have when you try to live off your income streams. The stock currently yields 11.80%.

Hatteras Financial Corp. (HTS), which invests in adjustable-rate and hybrid adjustable-rate single-family residential mortgage pass-through securities guaranteed by a U.S. Government agency or issued by a U.S. Government-sponsored entity, increased its quarterly dividend by 4.5% to $1.15 per share. Despite the fact that Hatteras Financial Corp. has only been around since 2008, its dividends have been pretty stable. The stock currently yields 13.90%.

Triangle Capital Corporation (TCAP), which is a private equity and venture capital firm specializing in buyouts, change of control transactions, acquisitions, growth financing, and recapitalizations in lower middle market companies, announced that its board has approved a 2.5% increase in dividends to 41cents/share. Triangle Capital Corporation has increased quarterly dividends since ever since it went public in 2007. The stock currently yields 14.10%.

I would be careful with the last three stocks mentioned, as they distribute most of their earnings out to shareholders, and thus have to depend on stock sales in order to keep growing the business. More stock sales dilute existing shareholders’ interests and could spell trouble if the capital markets freeze for one reason or another. Successful dividend investing is more than just chasing the highest dividend stocks – it’s more about finding a stock that has adequately covered dividends, whose business model could support future dividend increases.

Full Disclosure: Long MCD

Relevant Articles:

- Why do I like Dividend Aristocrats?
- McDonald’s (MCD) Dividend Stock Analysis
- Are High Dividend Stocks worth it?
- Not all dividend stocks are overvalued

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