Thursday, July 18, 2019

Dividend Stock Analysis of Kroger (KR)

The Kroger Co. (KR) operates as a retailer in the United States. The company operates supermarkets, multi-department stores, marketplace stores, and price impact warehouse stores. Kroger is a dividend achiever, which recently hiked quarterly dividends by 14% to 16 cents/share. This marked the 13th consecutive year of annual dividend increases for the company.

During the past decade, Kroger has managed to grow dividends at an annualized rate of 11.90%.

Kroger managed to grow earnings per share from 95 cents/share in 2009 to $2.11/share in 2019. The 2019 numbers are adjusted to exclude the gain on sale of Kroger’s convenience store business. The company expects to generate between $2.15 - $2.25/share in 2020. This would be a nice move up, given the fact that earnings per share have gone nowhere since 2016.

Kroger's financial strategy is to use its free cash flow to drive growth while also maintaining its current investment grade debt rating and returning capital to shareholders. The company actively balances the use of its cash flow to achieve these goals.

The grocery business is highly competitive, with Kroger competing against the likes of Wal-Mart and Target, as well as mom and pop grocery stores, as well as the likes of Amazon. The company needs to continuously invest in stores, drive efficient operations, new products and innovation ( such as online, and delivery/pick up). Kroger does have the scale of operations to effectively compete, and also has attractive store locations. This allows it to be able to do online purchase and pick up at 57% of its stores and home delivery for 91% of customers. Back in 2018, Kroger invested in Ocado, which is its exclusive grocery delivery partner in the US. Ocado delivers groceries in Europe. Kroger has also made investments in new warehouses, store optimization, expanding its own private label brands and digital, in an effort to drive long-term sales growth. Same store sales growth and cost reductions are the drivers that will propel earnings per share growth over time.

Kroger is also competing by offering a large variety of private label brands that it owns and manufactures internally. This allows it to generate very good profit margins on these items relative to branded products.

Kroger also competes by including pharmacies in order three-quarters of its stores and a gas station in over half of its locations. Customers who fill in a prescription by getting in the store are also likely to make another purchase or two. The same goes for customers who would appreciate the convenience of shopping for gas, filling prescriptions and doing their grocery shopping.

Kroger is also planning to develop alternative revenue streams using the data it collects on shoppers, targeting personal finance products and media ad revenues. The company collects a lot of date on customers that shop there, which can also be used as a tool to provide a more personalized shopping experience. Another alternative revenue stream is the Home Chef meal delivery service, which provides ingredients for meals in 48 states in the United States. Kroger acquired Home Chef in 2018, and the meal kits are available at Kroger locations, including a few Walgreen’s stores.

Kroger has rewarded shareholders handsomely with dividends and share buybacks. Between 2009 and 2019, the number of shares outstanding has gone down from 1.31 billion shares to 818 million shares. This means that shareholders from 2009, who stayed invested in Kroger, increased their ownership in the company without doing anything.

The dividend payout ratio increased from 17.90% in 2009 to 25.10% in 2019. A lower payout ratio provides an adequate margin of safety in the dividend payment, which can provide protection against short-term turbulence in earnings per share. There is room for increase in the payout ratio from here. Future dividend growth can be helped by a gradual increase in the payout ratio.

Currently the stock is attractively valued at 10 times forward earnings and offer an attractive dividend yield of 3%.

Relevant Articles:

- Three Dividend Achievers Distributing More Cash to Shareholders
Does Paying a Dividend Reduce a Company’s Value?
Attractively Valued Dividend Contenders To Consider
Supervalu (SVU) Dividend Stock Analysis

Monday, July 15, 2019

Nine Companies That Love To Raise Their Dividends

In today’s article, I will share a list of companies, which raised dividends last week. The list focuses on companies which have a ten year streak of annual dividend increases, and is part of my monitoring process. I review each dividend increase relative to the ten year average, in order to understand dividend growth consistency for the organization. I also review trends in earnings per share, in order to determine the likelihood of future dividend increases. Last but not least, I also review valuations. I have found that valuation is an important piece of the puzzle, which can show if you are about to lock in a high or low future rate of return on investments.

During the past week, there were nine dividend growth companies, which raised dividends to shareholders. The companies include:

Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc. (MMC) is a professional services company, provides advice and solutions to clients in the areas of risk, strategy, and people worldwide. It operates in two segments, Risk and Insurance Services, and Consulting. Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc. increased the quarterly cash dividend from $0.415 to $0.455 per share. This marked the tenth consecutive year of annual dividend increases for this newly minted dividend achiever. Over the past decade, the company has managed to grow dividends at an annualized rate of 7%.

Between 2009 and 2018, Marsh & McLennan managed to grow earnings from $0.42/share to $3.23/share. However, the company’s earnings have failed to grow on aggregate since 2003, despite the growth in the past decade. The company is expected to generate $4.58/share in 2019.
Currently, the stock is overvalued at 22.40 times earnings. The stock yields 1.80%.

Enterprise Products Partners L.P. (EPD) provides midstream energy services to producers and consumers of natural gas, natural gas liquids (NGLs), crude oil, petrochemicals, and refined products. The company operates through four segments: NGL Pipelines & Services, Crude Oil Pipelines & Services, Natural Gas Pipelines & Services, and Petrochemical & Refined Products Services.

Enterprise Products Partners L.P. increased the cash distribution paid to limited partners to $0.44 per common unit, or $1.76 per unit on an annualized basis.

This distribution, which represents a 2.3 percent increase over the distribution declared with respect to the second quarter of 2018, is the partnership’s 60th consecutive quarterly distribution increase. The partnership has increased distributions for 20 years in a row, which makes it a member of the elite list of dividend achievers. During the past decade however, it has managed to boost distributions at an annualize rate of 5.90%.

Currently, the partnership yields 5.80%. EPD is one of the few MLPs which have a 1.50 times coverage from distributable cash flows per share, which leaves some cushion on distribution safety. This also allows it to reinvest a portion of cashflows back into growing the business. MLPs are a little more complex around tax time, because distributions are not dividends and require the filling out of additional tax forms at the federal and state levels. That’s why some investors avoid the sector completely.

Cummins Inc. (CMI) designs, manufactures, distributes, and services diesel and natural gas engines, and powertrain-related component products worldwide. It operates in five segments: Engine, Distribution, Components, Power Systems, and Electrified Power.

Cummins Inc. increased the company's quarterly cash dividend by 15 percent to 1.311 dollars per share. This marked the 14th consecutive year of annual dividend increases for this dividend achiever. Over the past decade, Cummins has been able to grow dividends at an annualized rate of 22.20%.
Between 2008 and 2018, Cummins managed to grow earnings from $3.85/share to $13.15/share. The company is expected to generate $16.21/share in 2019.

Cummins looks cheap at 10.60 times forward earnings. The stock yields an attractive 3.10% today. I just wanted to warn you that as a cyclical company, earnings are highest close to the top of the cycle, which makes the P/E lowest. Therefore, the stock tends to look cheapest on a P/E basis when things are great, while the stock would look overpriced when earnings decline during the next recession.

MSC Industrial Direct Co., Inc. (MSM), distributes metalworking and maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) products in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. MSC Industrial Direct raised its quarterly dividend by 19% to $0.75 per share. This marked the 16th consecutive year of annual dividend increases for this dividend achiever. During the past decade, the company has managed to grow dividends by an annualized rate of 12%.

Between 2008 and 2018, the company has managed to grow earnings from $3.05/share to $5.80/share. The company is expected to earn $5.35/share in 2019.

Currently, the stock looks attractively valued at 13.60 times forward earnings. The stock yields 4.10%.

Duke Energy Corporation (DUK), operates as an energy company in the United States. It operates through three segments: Electric Utilities and Infrastructure, Gas Utilities and Infrastructure, and Commercial Renewables. The company declared a quarterly dividend of $0.945/share, a 1.90% increase from prior dividend of $0.9275. This marked the 15th year of annual dividend increases for this dividend achiever. Over the past decade, Duke has been able to boost annual distributions at a rate of 3%/year.

Between 2008 and 2018, the company’s earnings went from $3.24/share to $3.76/share. The company is expected to generate adjusted earnings per share in the $4.80 - $5.20/share range in 2019. In comparison, adjusted earnings per share for 2018 came up to $4.72/share. Therefore, I believe that 2019’s results will be only slightly higher. Fun fact – earnings per share haven’t increased much since the early 1990s, which is why Duke had to cut dividends in 2007. If earnings per share do not grow much in the future, Duke may have to cut dividends again, because there is limited room for dividend growth in the future.

The stock looks expensive using 2018 earnings per share of $3.76 – the P/E is at 23.60. The stock yields 4.30% today. I believe that Duke is a hold today, with dividends reinvested elsewhere.

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 increased quarterly dividends to 45.75 cents per share, which is an increase of 4 percent. This marks the 44th consecutive year that this dividend champion has raised the dividend. The rate of dividend growth per the last increase is down considerably from the ten year average at 15%/year and the 5 year average at 7.30%/year. I can’t be complaining however, as rival CVS Health has kept dividends unchanged.

Between 2008 and 2018, Walgreen’s has been able to grow its earnings from $2.18/share to $5.05/share. The company is expected to earn $5.98/share in 2019, followed by a modest growth to $6.02/share in 2020.

Walgreen’s looks attractively priced at 9.30 times forward earnings and offers a dependable dividend yield of 3.30%. The slowing down of the dividend growth rate is something to monitor however, because it indicates that the business environment is cloudy enough, which explains the low growth in forward EPS estimates. Check my analysis of Walgreen's for more information about the company.

Fastenal Company (FAST), engages in the wholesale distribution of industrial and construction supplies in the United States, Canada, and internationally. It offers fasteners, and other industrial and construction supplies under the Fastenal name.

The company raised its quarterly dividend to 22 cents/share. This was a 2.30% increase from the last payment. However, the dividend was 10% higher than the payment done during the same time last year. Fastenal is a dividend achiever with a 20 year record of annual dividend increases under its belt. Fastenal has managed to grow distributions at an annualized rate of 19.50% over the past decade.
The company has managed to grow earnings from $0.47/share in 2008 to $1.31/share in 2018. Fastenal is expected to earn $1.41/share in 2019.

The stock is slightly overvalued at 22 times forward earnings. It does offer a well-supported dividend yield at 2.80%. Fastenal may be worth a second look on dips below $28/share.

Occidental Petroleum Corporation (OXY), engages in the acquisition, exploration, and development of oil and gas properties in the United States and internationally. The company operates through three segments: Oil and Gas, Chemical, and Midstream and Marketing.

Occidental Petroleum raised its quarterly dividend by 1.30% to 79 cents/share. Occidental has increased its dividend every year for 17 consecutive years. It has a ten year annualized dividend growth rate at 10.20%. However, dividend growth has been below 2%/year over the past three years.
Between 2008 and 2018, earnings per share declined from $8.31/share to $5.39/share.
The company is expected to generate $3.78/share in 2019.

The stock looks cheap at 13.80 times forward earnings. Occidental yields 6.10%. It does have a high forward payout ratio at 83.60% today, which is a little too high for my liking. The carnage in the oil sector since 2014 has destroyed the earnings records of many oil and gas companies.

Ryder System, Inc. ( R ) provides transportation and supply chain management solutions worldwide.
The company operates through three segments: Fleet Management Solutions (FMS), Dedicated Transportation Solutions (DTS), and Supply Chain Solutions (SCS). Ryder (R ) increased its quarterly dividend by 3.70% to 56 cents/share. This marks the 15th consecutive annual dividend increase for this dividend achiever. The latest dividend increase is lower than the ten year annualized rate of growth of 8.70%.

Between 2008 and 2018, Ryder has managed to boost earnings from $3.49/share to $5.17/share. The company is expected to generate $6.14/share in 2019.

Ryder is attractively valued at 9.40 times forward earnings and offers a dependable yield of 3.90%. The slowdown in dividend growth over the past two years indicates a management team which is getting nervous about near term business conditions.

Relevant Articles:

Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) Dividend Stock Analysis
Dividend Achievers versus Dividend Contenders & Champions
Three Dividend Achievers Distributing More Cash to Shareholders
How to read my weekly dividend increase reports

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Dividend Achievers versus Dividend Contenders & Champions

When I started my journey of Dividend Growth Investing at the end of last decade, I focused on the list of Dividend Aristocrats and the list of Dividend Achievers. The dividend aristocrats list focuses on companies which have managed to increased dividends for 25 years in a row.

The dividend achiever list on the other hand includes companies which have managed to increase dividends every year for at least a decade. The Nasdaq Dividend Achievers™ is composite of companies with a history of increasing dividend payouts. This select group of companies is committed to enhancing shareholder value through the return of capital to shareholders.

A newer list, which I have argued to be more comprehensive is the list of dividend champions, contenders and challengers, which used to be maintained by the late David Fish. If you group the list of dividend champions and contenders, you end up with a list of companies which have managed to grow dividends annually for at least a decade. You can obtain the list from DripInvesting here.

I compared the list of dividend achievers with the list of dividend champions and contenders in order to see the differences between these two groups of securities.

As of the end of June 2019, there were 263 dividend achievers. You can obtain the list of dividend achievers from this website.

In comparison, there were 233 dividend contenders and 136 dividend champions on the CCC list. That is a total of 369 companies which have managed to boost dividends for at least ten consecutive years.

I went ahead and did a quick reconciliation between the two lists, in order to identify the reasons behind the changes.

In the first review I did, I focused on the companies on the dividend achievers list, which were not listed as either dividend champions or dividend contenders.

I found out three differences, where companies were listed on the dividend achievers list, but not on the list of dividend champions and contenders.

The first two were Abbott Laboratories and ITT Industries with a 6 and 7 year track record of annual dividend increases. Abbott Laboratories was kept out, because the 2013 split into Abbott and Abbvie was viewed as a dividend cut, which it wasn’t. An investor in legacy Abbott would have received shares of new Abbott and Abbvie. Their annual dividend income would have kept going up every year since the split in 2013. Therefore, the late Dave Fish should have kept Abbott on the list, the same way Altria was kept on the list after its split into Altria, Phillip Morris International and Kraft Foods.

ITT industries is another company that had a lot of spin-offs and splits in the business over the past decade. In 2011, ITT spun off its defense businesses into a company named Exelis, and its water technology business into a company named Xylem Inc. Collective ITT, Xylem and ITT Exelis post-spin dividends were immediately equal to pre-spin ITT quarterly dividend. However, it turned out that dividends per share in 2010 and 2011 were exactly the same and hadn’t moved. Therefore, I agree with late Dave Fish’s assessment that the company be kept out of the dividend contenders list. I disagree with the dividend achievers list assessment that they kept the stock in the list.

The third difference is a timing one – the dividend achievers list includes L3 Harris (LHX), which is created as a result of the merger between Harris (HRS) and L3 (LLL). This is a timing variance, which will be corrected by the time the next CCC list is uploaded.

The second review I did focused on companies on the CCC list ( dividend champions and contenders), but not on the list of dividend achievers. There were a total of 109 companies missing from the list of dividend achievers. You can download the list of differences from this link.

47 of the companies on the companies had a streak of exactly ten years. Therefore, it is fair to assume that these companies are not on the list of dividend achievers because they just achieved their ten year track record. The list of dividend achievers is updated once per year, while the list of dividend contenders is updated once per month. I would view this difference as a timing difference.

For the other 62 companies however, I am unable to determine why they would be excluded from the list of dividend achievers.

It is quite possible that they are excluded because these companies are not actively traded enough, or traded on the Over-The-Counter, not on NYSE or Nasdaq. Why would this matter at all? This is because index funds must be able to sell and buy shares quickly and at high volume, in order to accommodate inflows and outflows from investors, while following their index. If the index consists of thinly traded companies, an index fund would have a tough time following these companies. Therefore, it is easier to excluded these companies from the get-go. This is where your opportunity to review this companies comes to play of course. I wouldn’t be surprised if a portfolio of these 62 companies will do better than a portfolio of the 263 dividend achievers over the next decade. Let’s revisit in 2029, shall we?

As a long-term buy and hold investor, I do not care about trading volume, because I do not plan to jump in and out of stocks. I hope to find a quality company at an attractive price, with a record of annual dividend increases, which can manage to grow earnings over time. One such company I invested in 2010 was Hingham Institution for Savings (HIFS). Because the bank is thinly traded, it was excluded from the list of dividend achievers. This is unfortunate, because the company is one of the best performing investments I have had in my investment career.

The other reason for a few of the differences is the fact that the CCC list includes a few foreign companies, such as Thomson Reuters (TRI), Canadian National Railways (CNI), Enbridge (ENB), HDFC Bank Limited (HDB). It would make sense that these should be part of the Canadian Dividend Achievers and International Dividend Achievers Indices, not an index that is focused on US companies. The overly narrow focus of indices can be a blessing and a curse of course. My focus is on companies, whose profits can support annual growth in dividends per share, and their reliability in tough times. It does not matter to me if a company is US based, Foreign based, and whether it fits into a narrowly defined artificially created bucket such as mid-cap, small-cap, large-cap etc. Most indices focus on a narrow slice of a population, for better or worse.

While I disagree with the exclusion of so many companies from the dividend achievers index, I do agree that dividends matter.

Why Dividends Matter (source)

Companies that pay regular dividends tend to be in better financial health and produce sustained earnings and revenue growth.

Dividends help identify well-managed companies; every dividend declaration represents a promise by management and a vote of confidence by the board of directors in the company's leadership.

Companies that consistently raise their dividend payouts also raise the bar on their own performance expectations.

Shares of dividend-paying companies possess built-in value that makes them generally more resilient in down markets, with solid appreciation potential during earnings-driven market upturns — with less price volatility.

Relevant Articles:

S&P Dividend Aristocrats Index – An Incomplete List for Dividend Investors
- 2019 List of Dividend Aristocrats Revealed
2019 Dividend Champions List
Why do I like the Dividend Aristocrats?

Monday, July 8, 2019

Three Dividend Achievers Distributing More Cash to Shareholders

As part of my monitoring process, I review the list of dividend increases every week. I usually focus my attention on the companies that have managed to grow dividends for at least a decade. This filter reduces the number of companies to review weekly.

The next step involves reviewing trends in fundamentals, in order to determine the likelihood of future dividend increases. Growth in earnings per share can provide the fuel behind future dividend increases and increases in intrinsic values.

However, it is also important to select companies when the valuation makes sense. A company that doesn’t grow can be a good investment, provided that the price is sufficiently low. A company that grows by leaps and bounds may turn out to be a poor investment, if the entry price is prohibitively high. To make things even more interesting, the valuation and availability of investments is also relative. It is dependent on the opportunities we have at the moment, and how they stack against each other.

The monitoring process I described is the way I use to keep tabs of many companies I own or am considering owning. The quick review is also the cornerstone of the way I review dividend companies for investment.

Over the past couple of weeks, there were three companies that raised dividends and also checked my boxes for further research. The companies include:

The Kroger Co. (KR) operates supermarkets, multi-department stores, marketplace stores, and price impact warehouse stores.

Kroger Co.'s Board of Directors approved a dividend increase from 14 cents to 16 cents per year. Kroger's quarterly dividend has grown at a double-digit compound annual growth rate since it was reinstated in 2006. The company continues to expect, subject to board approval, an increasing dividend over time.

"Kroger's 14 percent dividend increase underscores our Board of Director's confidence in the momentum we are building in the second year of Restock Kroger and our ability to deliver strong free cash flow," said Rodney McMullen, Kroger's chairman and CEO. "This marks our 13th consecutive year of dividend increases. We are committed to creating shareholder value and achieving our long-term vision to serve America through food inspiration and uplift."

Kroger's financial strategy is to use its free cash flow to drive growth while also maintaining its current investment grade debt rating and returning capital to shareholders. This dividend achiever actively balances the use of its cash flow to achieve these goals.

Between 2009 and 2019, earnings per share increased from $0.95 to $2.11/share. Kroger is expected to generate $2.17/share in 2020.

The stock is attractively valued at 10 times forward earnings and yields 2.90%.

Hingham Institution for Savings (HIFS) provides various financial products and services to individuals and small businesses in the United States.

Board of Directors declared a regular quarterly cash dividend of $0.39 per share. This represents an increase of 3% over the previous regular quarterly dividend of $0.38 per share. It is also an 11.40% increase over the dividend paid during the same time last year. This is the banks 102nd consecutive quarterly dividend. This dividend achiever has consistently increased regular quarterly cash dividends over the last twenty-four years.

The most recent dividend increase has been faster than the ten year average of 5.50%/year. The bank also pays a special dividend equal to a quarterly dividend paid. It pays five quarterly dividends per year in essence.

The company has managed to grow earnings from $3.79/share in 2009 to $13.90/share in 2018.
The bank is attractively priced at 14.50 times earnings. However, its dividend yield is a little on the low side at 1%.

Bank OZK (OZK) provides retail and commercial banking services to businesses, individuals, and non-profit and governmental entities. The bank raised its quarterly dividend by 4.30% to 24 cents/share. The new payment is 20% higher than the distribution paid in the third quarter of 2018. Bank OZK is a dividend achiever with a 24 year track record of annual dividend increases. The bank has also managed to grow dividends every single quarter since 2011. The ten year dividend growth is at 20.30%/annum on average.

Between 2008 and 2018, this bank managed to grow earnings from $0.51/share to $3.24/share. Bank OZK is expected to earn $3.78/share in 2019. I see a lot of dividend investors reviewing Bank OZK over the past few months. The stock is cheap at 8.60 times forward earnings and yields 3.20%. I would have to add the stock to my list for further research.

Relevant Articles:

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Best Dividend Investing Articles For June 2019

For your reading enjoyment, I have highlighted several articles that the readers found of particular interest this month. I have included the article title, as well as a short description.

Happy 4th of July! Hope you are having a nice and relaxing Holiday Weekend!

Five Dividend Machines Working Hard for Their Owners 
I highlighted five dividend paying companies which raised dividends to shareholders in the article. Each company had at least a ten year streak of annual dividend increases, making it a dividend achiever or dividend champion. A long record of annual dividend increases is a sign of quality, because only stable companies with dependable earnings are able to achieve this track record. I review the notable dividend increases weekly, as part of my monitoring process.

Three Of Our Favorite Safe Dividend Aristocrats Now 
In this guest post from Sure Dividend, Bob Ciura discussed three dividend aristocrats which he finds to be attractive valued today. Each of these companies has a low P/E ratio and a higher than average dividend yield. Bob believes that the dividends are dependable, which is why he finds those companies amongst his favorites. The three Dividend Aristocrats offer the combination of a market-beating dividend yield, low stock valuation, and strong earnings growth potential. As a result, each stock earns a buy recommendation from Sure Dividend, as they have the lowest level of dividend risk and high expected returns over the next five years.

Dividend Investing Resources I Use
I am frequently asked by readers about resources I use. While I have discussed before the resources I use to monitor my holdings, and I have compiled before information on resources before, those lists are forever changing. As I have done this for over a decade, I continuously add, test and remove tools from my list. However, I also have to keep in mind the fact that this site is read by investors with varying levels of experience. Therefore, I decided to list a few free resources that may be helpful for any dividend investor out there.

Another helpful resource is the Sure Dividend Morning Dividend, which some readers have found to be helpful.

Twenty-Four Attractively Valued Dividend Champions for Further Research 
I screened the list of Dividend Champions, using my proprietary entry criteria. These include a P/E ratio below 20, a dividend growth rate above the inflation rate, a sustainable payout ratio, as well as growing earnings per share over the past decade. I have been discussing this criteria for over 9 years now. I find that using factors that are common sense to be very appealing when selecting dividend companies. The twenty-four companies are not automatic buys of course, but merely candidates for further research. It may be interesting to see how a blind selection of these 24 companies would do over the next decade. I guess we would touch base in 2029 on this item.

I am sharing this screening process in order to show investors how I go about identifying companies, and build a diversified portfolio over time. I have found that the ability to stick to a process, invest regularly, and to keep holding through patiently thick or thin is my edge in investing. By sharing my experience, I am hopeful to inspire you into developing your own methodology, and use it to work towards your financial objectives.

Early Retirement For Dividend Investors 
I view the pursuit of financial independence as an endeavor that would allow readers to reclaim their own time, while also providing the flexibility to pursue what is truly important for them. When you become financially independent, you typically receive dividends, capital gains, rent payments, royalty payments from investments, and you have the added benefit of not having not work even a day in your life from there. Depending on how things work out for you, this can be achieved as early as your 30s or as late as your 50s or 60s.

I embrace the pursuit of financial independence. It shouldn’t be a big surprise that after discussing investments for over a decade, I am a big fan of pursuing financial independence at my own terms. To me, financial independence is the point at which your passive income meets or exceeds your expenses. This is the so called dividend crossover point. The point of learning about dividend investing and applying it with real money on the line has always been to help me reach my dividend crossover point.

Monday, July 1, 2019

My Take on Abbvie's Recent Deal Activity

You may have heard the news that Abbvie (ABBV) is in talks to acquire biotech Allergan (AGN) in a transaction valued at $60 billion. Abbvie will offer $120.30 in cash plus 0.8660 in Abbvie shares for each Allergan share.

As someone who already owns shares in Abbvie, it is good to monitor any developments around the company. I am a buy and hold investor who will hold through anything, as long as my dividends are at least maintained. My position in AbbVie is a result of the split of legacy Abbott Laboratories in 2012 into AbbVie and Abbott. I haven't added to my position in either company since. I do monitor both companies however, as part of my ownership rituals.

When I analyzed Abbvie in September of last year, I did mention the following:

Perhaps Abbvie could similarly acquire growth through acquisitions as well. Hopefully they do not overpay for those acquisitions, and do not decide to cut the dividend in the meantime.

This deal will allow Abbvie to diversify its revenue stream away from blockbuster drug Humira, which accounts for a very large portion of revenues and earnings. Humira is losing its exclusivity in the US after 2023. This deal will also bring in synergies, and bring in new drugs in various stages of development. The synergies will be mainly from a reducing duplication in SG&A, R&D, and consolidating manufacturing operations. The acquisition price is roughly half what Allergan was going for, when Pfizer walked out of its deal to acquire it a few short years ago. It will reduce the revenues derived from Humira from 60% to 40%.

After the announcement, Allergan shares went up, while Abbvie's share price nosedived by over 16%. This decline pushed the dividend yield to 6.50%. The dividend is at 6.10% today. I do not like chasing yield however. I sincerely hope that investors who are buying AbbVie today are doing objective analysis of the situation, and are not being blinded by the high yield, while ignoring potential risks to the future sustainability of the dividend payment.

It looks like the market participants did not like the deal. That is surprising, because the main issue behind AbbVie was its over-reliance on Humira, whose protections have been extended for a while, but are likely to run out in 2022 - 2023. After that, revenues will fall of a cliff, unless new drugs are brought to market to offset the declines, or an acquisition is done. It is possible that investors did not like the deal because of increased debt, because the acquisition price is high, or because the company will have less flexibility in case something goes wrong.

Perhaps it is because this deal will increase Abbvie's debt significantly, and reduce financial flexibility. My research has identified increased debt following an acquisition spree as one of the factors behind a future dividend cut. I am not predicting that Abbvie will cut dividends, but I do believe that the market considers the risk of a dividend cut to be elevated today, versus last week. Currently, AbbVie's long-term debt stands at $35 - $36 billion. The company will issue $38 billion in debt to complete Allergan's acquisition. Allergan also has roughly $26 billion in long-term debt on its balance sheet. That is close to $100 billion in debt.

We cannot just look at debt in isolation of course. AbbVie generated $12.80 billion in free cash flows in 2018, while Allergan generated a little over $5.3 billion in free cash flows in 2018. At least until 2022, the combined company could very likely generate roughly $18 to $19 billion in free cash flows per year. I believe that the number of shares outstanding for AbbVie will increase from 1.546 billion. Allergan has 337 million shares, which would translate to 292 million new AbbVie shares added to the pile, for a grand total of 1.838 billion shares. At the current rate of $4.28/share, we are looking at $7.9 billion going for dividends payments every year. I doubt that the new company will do much in terms of share buybacks. They will be able to reduce the debt by $5 - $10 billion/year, assuming that they do not make another acquisition. Of course, after 2022, Humira's sales and profits will decline, which means that the situation will get tighter around the ability to pay and grow the dividend. I believe that the dividend is too high today, and that management will likely increase it further from here. This will make the tight situation even tighter by 2021 - 2022. So I do not believe that AbbVie will make a huge dent in its debt by 2023. Perhaps, that will be a catalyst for another acquisition by then.

This analysis of cash-flows is not taking into consideration any cost savings that will be generated by eliminating duplicate functions in corporate departments, R&D and manufacturing. However, it also doesn't take into consideration increased interest expenses.

It is also possible that the deal strikes as desperation, because Abbvie does not have the drugs to offset the effects of declining sales and profits from Humira after 2023. This is their way of prolonging the existence of Abbvie, and kicking the proverbial can down the road. The price for Allergan is roughly 11 times Free Cash Flow, while AbbVie is selling for roughly 8.50 times free cash flows. Is AbbVie overpaying for Allergan?

Allergan has not grown revenues for a couple of years either however.

 AGN 2015 2016 2017 2018
Revenues in millions 15,071 14,571 15,941 15,787

The real question for dividend investors today is, "how safe is the dividend"?. My answer is that it depends on how each individual investor decides to evaluate sustainability.

At current rates, the annual dividend is at $4.28/share. As I mentioned above, it is a little high, and could possibly get even higher. But that could pose problems down the road, assuming that revenues and earnings hit a ceiling in 2022, and then start declining. But lets look at GAAP and Non-GAAP earnings first ( after looking at cashflows above)

Based on Non-GAAP earnings per share, Abbvie has managed to grow the bottom line since it separated from Abbot at the end of 2012.

However, if you focus on GAAP earnings per share, it looks like the profits did not increase at all since 2013.

It looks like annual dividends have increased from $1.75/share in 2014 to $3.95/share in 2018. Abbvie hiked its quarterly dividends to $1.07/share in the last quarter of 2018. This brings the annual dividend to $4.28/share.

I do believe that the answer to the questions " how safe is my dividend" is somewhere in the middle. However, I do believe that the combined company has a lower margin of safety in dividends than before due to increased debt, and more shares being added at the high dividend rate due to the acquisition. It is very likely that any short-term pressures on management due to a more challenging competitive position, or a more challenging economic or financial environment may prompt them to freeze dividends and even cut them if they have to. That being said, the dividend is relatively safe for the next three years or so. My concerns are for the period after that.

The stock price is lower, and could be a bargain today at 8.70 times adjusted non-gaap earnings and a dividend yield of 6.10%. The adjusted non-gaap payout ratio looks ok at 54%. Using GAAP earnings, the P/E ratio is at 19.10 but the dividend payout ratio is above 100%.

However, there is a higher risk of a dividend cut down the road due to increase in debt by an estimated $38 billion, from the current level of long-term debt of $36 billion. There are always risks in integrating two separate cultures, which may reduce the amount of synergies that are actually realized. We also have risks that the existing revenues for Humira decline faster than expected and sooner than expected, pressuring management to pay off debt using funds for dividends and buybacks.

Ultimately, I think that Abbvie may be worth monitoring further. I will monitor the situation and decided if I want to add to my position. For the time being, I am digesting the facts. and weighing the risk of a dividend cut against the possibility for diversifying the revenue stream and the potential for today being a bargain price for the stock. The stock price has been going up since the big decline, which is clouding my judgment even further, creating a fear of missing out mentality.

I am hesitant, because I am evaluating my success based on my ability to generate recurring dividend income that increases above the rate of inflation. If you are an investor who may not worry if a company they buy cuts dividends on them, perhaps Abbvie could be worth further researching. If it turns out ok, similar to how Pfizer turned out after its 2009 dividend cut, good returns could be generated. If it doesn't however, you will have the double whammy of lower dividends and lower net worth for the portion allocated to Abbvie a few years down the road.

The conclusion I had at the end of my last analysis is still fitting for today's situation. I stated the following:

I am unsure about adding more to Abbvie at present levels. Abbvie seems like a company that needs closer monitoring, because it is not the type of business where future growth can be taken for granted. On the other hand, the dividend seems sustainable at the moment, and will likely grow for the next four - five years at a high single digit rate. Investors today need to decide for themselves whether the current valuation is attractive enough to outweigh future risks. Either way, investors are getting paid generously to hold onto their Abbvie shares.

What is your opinion on the stock? Are you a buyer of Abbvie, are you holding on to it or are you considering selling? I would love to hear from you! You can hit reply or email me at

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