Thursday, July 18, 2024

The Best Performing Stock in the Past Century

I recently read an interesting paper titled "Which U.S. Stocks Generated the Highest Long-Term Returns?" by prof Hendrik Bessembinder.

This paper reviewed the annualized returns on all 29,078 publicly-listed stocks in the US between December 1925 and December 2023. It found that the the best performing stock over the past century or so in the US was Altria Group (MO) (which was known as Philip Morris).

Investors who put $1 into Altria in December 1925, and then kept everything and reinvested all those dividends, ended up $2.65 Million dollars. That's a cumulative return of 265 million percent.

That comes out to an annualized return of 16.29%. This is a market beating return, which resulted in a magnificent amount of wealth, especially when you compound that over the course of almost a century (98 years to be precise).

The table below lists the common stocks with the highest cumulative returns over the past century in the US. I see a lot of familiar dividend names here:

One striking observation that can be drawn from the data in Table 2 is that the highest cumulative returns delivered by individual common stocks are attributable to annualized returns that are only moderately high. However, these moderately high returns are compounded over long time periods, averaging 92.1 years. Of course, few investors have an investment horizon of one century. However, if you can find consistent companies that can build wealth at a slow but steady fashion over long periods of time, you can build generational wealth. And probably maintain it too.

This basically shows that many dividend companies with staying power have managed to compound returns to shareholders over long periods of time. Which is really how you generate long-term wealth.

Certain industries are built to last. So are certain companies.

While future winners are hard to identify in advance, there are certain lessons to learn from studying past winners.

Notably, you are looking for:

1. Wide Moats

2. Strong Brands

3. Earnings per share growth

4. Long-term runway

5. Staying power

Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

The value of experience

“Good decisions come from experience. Experience. comes from bad decisions.” - Mark Twain


I am a big fan of long-term investing. This is one of the few areas in life, where a small initial amount can deliver amazing results, net worth and income to the patient individual.


However, long-term investing is not smooth sailing at all. There are a lot of obstacles to compounding, a lot of doubt, fear and uncertainty along the way. Not many are able to go through the gut wrenching declines, or the long flat markets that test everyone's conviction.


On the other hand, you are also always worried that your investments would give back any gains, and that there will be a big bad bear market, that also coincides with the next great depression. Even if everything goes according to plan, there is always someone that sounds very smart in predicting exactly how and when the collapse would occur.

It’s even harder to stick to your investments, when you constantly see others that may have somehow selected a better, shinier and lookingly more profitable investment or strategy than you. You get envy, you feel like your strategy is “not working”, you want to jump ship.

The fun part is that no investment strategy will always work all the time, and will always outperform everyone else.

The best strategy is the one you can stick to, through thick or thin.

This is why it is imperative that you find a strategy that you are comfortable with, and then stick to it. One still needs to try and improve over time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they need to rip and replace it every few years. I am talking about small, incremental changes, nothing drastic.

After all, markets go through different cycles and regime changes. What’s hot in one cycle, may turn out to be a major dud in the next. The investor who chases performance may end up capitulating from their former strategy at the worst time possible. They may end up compounding their mistake by embracing the next strategy at its height of importance, but possibly the worst time for returns.


Veteran investors know to control their emotions, and just stick to their plan however, knowing that their time would come. They win some during a favorable cycle, keep investing through the down cycle, and live to see another day when the tide turns in their favor.

Some of these cycles may be very long – think a decade or two. Those are career making cycles, which may give you the impression of a long-term trend. That makes a lot of sense, because on average, I would guesstimate that the average investor only seriously invests for about 2 – 3 decades.

Recency bias and performance chasing are thus something to be aware of. Biases and impulse could be a problem for your long-term wealth building plan.

For example, a lot of investors today are just saying to just invest in S&P 500. This is particularly easy to conclude after witnessing basically a non-stop bull market since 2009. While we have had some declines in 2011, 2018, and even a couple of bear markets in 2020 and 2022, US Stocks have been on a tear.


This is in stark contrast with the experience from 2000 to 2012, when US Stocks practically went nowhere. US Stocks practically delivered zero in total returns during this time period. To add insult to injury, we also experienced two gut wrenching 50% declines – the dot-com bust and the Global Financial Crisis. These events also coincided with recessions, which also increased unemployment and made it very difficult not only to hold on to your stocks, but add to them. After all, back at the depths of the 2008 – 2009 recession, a lot of investors saw that their regular 401 (k) contribution plans had not made any profit, going back to the late 1990s. Even if you just kept investing regularly, you didn’t make money. That was a terrible thing, especially given inflation and the fact that many investors had to dip into their nest eggs, amidst unemployment and the difficulty in securing another job. Even finding work at Wal-Mart was not easy at that time.

Back around 2000 – 2012, it was very hard to convince folks to invest in US stocks. That’s because the recent trends had been that of stagnation. Everyone else was focused on the Emerging Markets, and Foreign Markets, as well as Bonds, which had had a very good decade. Remember the BRICs?  So the general sentiment was to diversify abroad, and into other asset classes. Including commodities as well. Papers were being written, showing how investing in commodities had somehow done better than investing in stocks too. Then as we all know, the pendulum swung the other way – the cycle of US stocks not doing well, and foreign/emerging market stocks doing very well ended in 2011/2012. Now it’s the opposite since 2011.

Investors who owned US Stocks in 2000 had their patience tested. But if they held on for 12 long years, they were rewarded by 12 years of bounty, which more than compensated them for the pain.

And of course, if you remember, back in 1999/2000, the US was at the top of the world. Owning S&P 500 was the no-brainer investment, especially after it had done so well in the 1990s. Of course, it didn’t work out for the next 12 years, testing everyone’s patience and conviction.

I follow a lot of novice investors who seem to think that the only way to invest today is by investing in technology companies. Focusing on the best performing sector of the past 15 years definitely seems like a smart strategy today.

However, it ignores past history. It’s also incredibly risky. The past 15 years were great. But the previous 15 years, aka those from 2000 to 2015 were not. That’s when you had the dot-com bubble bursting, which saw an 80% decline in the Nasdaq Composite and Nasdaq 100. Many individual companies fell even more, to the point of going bust. Many investors lost their shirts, never again to invest in the stock market. Then it took 15 long years for the average to regain its all-time-highs. Many of the leaders from 2000 have not recovered, with some going under. The leaders today are companies that weren’t even public in 2000 or were just small footnotes on the stock market.

The investors buying tech in the 1990s and early 2000 have mostly been wiped out. It is very unlikely to find a tech investor today, who was also there to overcome the pain of the dot-com bust. The investors buying tech today, or buying it in the past 10 – 15 years were very likely not investing before that. They have no muscle memory from the carnage. 

Sector bets are risky, because they seem like they would go in forever, and they do, until they don’t. Do you remember the best sector between 2000 and 2014? That was energy. The energy revolution did deliver energy independence to the US. But investors did not do so well over the past decade.

Many Investors tend to base their investment decisions based on recent experience. They simply take recent experience, and extrapolate it into the future. That may work under some conditions, but not work under others. Either way, the experience could be a two-edged sword. On one hand, it could be profitable and works. On the other hand, it could be unprofitable and it doesn’t work.

In the context of investors who are piling on to technology today, all they’ve seen is a concentrated sector bet work. So they take this recent experience, and extrapolate it into the future, without thinking about what could go wrong.

Those who have lived through tech carnages, such as the 2000 – 2012 period, tend to remember those and extrapolate into the future as well. They are humbled by it. However, they also missed out on the huge tech run in the past 10 – 15 years, because of the painful experiences from the dot-com bust.

The same goes for the cycles of “value” and “growth”. US and international. Dividend versus non-dividend. Technology.

As you can see, there are long cycles. The experience in one cycle would likely mean making money. But the same lessons would be devastating into another cycle.

For example, some investors learned that timing the market works between 2000 and 2012. Selling S&P 500 when it hit 1,500 was smart, and buying it back when it’s low worked. The issue was that in 2013 that was a bad idea, because if you sold, you missed out on a 4 bagger. Or worse, if you were short the market, you lost money in one of the longest bull markets in history.

For another example, in a bull market investors learn the lesson that “valuation doesn’t matter”. When a rising tide lifts all boats, and especially the more speculative companies, you get rewarded for taking on risks. Valuation is more of a hindrance to taking on those risks. However, it does matter in the very long run, and could be especially helpful if we are not in a raging bull market. Which historically we are not always in.

You have to ride the ups and downs, in order to stand a chance of making money and not just treading water all your investing life.

Dividend Growth Investing has been my strategy of choice. It was definitely easy to stick to it, as the 2000 – 2012 period saw it do very well in making money and doing better than the market. Other strategies like technology did really really poorly, amidst 80% drawdowns that had many investors sell and lose hope in markets altogether. During the hard times, dividend growth stocks delivered slow and steady returns.

However, the past 12 years saw it do worse than the market. There are other strategies like technology, which really did very well. While Dividend Growth Investors made money, they didn’t do as well as others. During the good times, dividend growth stocks delivered slow and steady returns. I don't think relative performance comparisons are useful, because you end up chasing performance, and less likely to stick to an investment strategy through the eventual ups and downs. Keeping up with the Dow Joneses could be costly in the long run.

Many investors are extrapolating the good times of the past 12+ years, and assuming they would continue indefinitely. This is where a lot of investors are abandoning dividend oriented strategies. I believe these investors are making a mistake, as they are chasing performance and subjecting themselves to their recency bias. Of course, if there is indeed a paradigm shift, it’s possible that I am just a stubborn old person who refuses to learn. In that case, I won’t be the disciplined person I think I am. Oh well.

I believe that if we do see a regime shift again, at some point in the future, the dividend strategies would shine again on a relative and absolute basis. (we saw that briefly in 2022). This is what is appealing to me with dividend oriented strategies – when the going gets tough and we have a bear  market, you don’t lose as much. This makes it easier to hold on during the hard times. The predictability of dividends, which are received on a regular schedule, also makes it easy to hold on to a stock, and focus on fundamentals, rather than the oscillating share price. After all, dividends are much more stable, and predictable when compared to share prices. That’s because dividends come from cashflows, and not the opinions of others. Share prices reflect the opinions of others, which is why they can overshoot above or below intrinsic values.

During a bull market however, reliable dividend companies are shunned. They do not go up as much as others, particularly shiny new emerging concepts. However, they still deliver slow but steady returns. When the cycle turns, those investors are happy to own those steady eddies, which shower them with growing torrents of cash. All of this makes them sleep well at night.

The things that make Buffett special, is that he has been able to consistently make money, despite the cycle we are in. He has done that, because he has stuck to his strategy for decades, while patiently improving. Perhaps having some diversified exposure can help.

Those ordinary investors like you and me however have only a few smart tools within our disposal.

Notably, to stick to our strategy, and stay the course, while ignoring the songs of the sirens. Someone will always be getting rich faster than you or me, but that’s not the end of the world, for as long as we reach our own goals and objectives. Keeping up with the Joneses can be costly, and derail our train on its way to financial independence.

The investment journey is long and arduous. In order to achieve goals, one needs to survive it first. Chasing what’s hot may work for a while in one cycle, but it is not a plan that would work over one’s whole investment lifecycle. That lifecycle is comprised of many cycles. What's hot in one cycle is unlikely to be hot over all the cycles you are going to be investing for. Sticking to a strategy lets investors stay the course, and reach their goals and objectives. It also helps ignore the noise.



Monday, July 15, 2024

Nine Dividend Growth Stocks Increasing Dividends Last Week

I review the list of dividend increases every single week, as part of my monitoring process. This exercise helps me to monitor existing holdings. It also helps me potentially identify companies for further research.

I typically focus my attention on the companies with a ten year track record of annual dividend increases. 

Over the past week, there were nine companies that both raised dividends to shareholders and also have a ten year streak of consecutive annual dividend increases. I have included a short summary behind each company, the raise, and the type of fundamental and valuation information I use to quickly decide if a company should be placed on my list for research or not.

The nine companies are listed below:

The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation (BK) provides a range of financial products and services in the United States and internationally. The company operates through Securities Services, Market and Wealth Services, Investment and Wealth Management, and other segments.

The company hiked quarterly dividends by 11.90% to $0.47/share.  This is the 14th consecutive annual dividend increases for this dividend achiever. The company has managed to grow dividends at an annualized rate of 8.70% over the past 5 years.

The company managed to grow earnings per share from $2.17 in 2014 to $3.89 in 2023.

The company is expected to earn $5.52/share in 2024.

The stock sells for 11.15 times forward earnings and yields 2.91%.

Cummins Inc. (CMI) designs, manufactures, distributes, and services diesel and natural gas engines, electric and hybrid powertrains, and related components worldwide. It operates through five segments: Engine, Distribution, Components, Power Systems, and Accelera.

Cummins raised quarterly dividends by 8.30% to $1.82/share. Cummins is a dividend achiever which has increased the quarterly common stock dividend to shareholders for 19 consecutive years. The company has managed to grow dividends at an annualized rate of 7.90% over the past 5 years.

Between 2014 and 2023, the company's earnings/share went from $9.04 to $5.19. That was driven by one-time charges against income however.

The company is expected to earn $18.53/share in 2024.

The stock sells for 15.10 times forward earnings and yields 2.54%.

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. It operates in four segments: NGL Pipelines & Services, Crude Oil Pipelines & Services, Natural Gas Pipelines & Services, and Petrochemical & Refined Products Services.

The partnership hiked quarterly distributions by 1.90% to $0.525/unit. This is also a 5% increase over the distribution paid during the same time last year. This is the 26th consecutive annual distribution hike for this dividend champion.

Over the past five years, EPD has managed to grow distributions at an annualized rate of 2.90%.

The units yield 7.15% today.

Gladstone Land (LAND) is a publicly traded real estate investment trust that acquires and owns farmland and farm-related properties located in major agricultural markets in the U.S. and leases its properties to unrelated third-party farmers

Gladstone Land increased its monthly dividends by 0.20% to $0.0467/share. This is a 1.08% raise over the monthly dividend paid during the same time last year. This is also the tenth consecutive annual dividend increase for this newly minted dividend achiever. The company has managed to grow dividends at an annualized rate of 0.80% over the past 5 years.

The REIT grew FFO/share from $0.24 in 2014 to $0.62 in 2023. It's expected to generate $0.62/share in FFO in 2024.

The stock sells for 23.50 times forward FFO and yields 3.83%.

Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc. (MMC) is a professional services company, which provides advice and solutions to clients in the areas of risk, strategy, and people worldwide. It operates through Risk and Insurance Services, and Consulting segments. 

Marsh & McLennan increased quarterly dividends by 14.80% to $0.815/share. This is the 15th year of consecutive annual dividend increases for this dividend achiever. The company has managed to grow dividends at an annualized rate of 10.50% over the past 5 years.

The company managed to grow earnings per share from $2.69 in 2014 to $7.60 in 2023.

The company is expected to earn $8.70/share in 2024.

The stock sells for 25 times forward earnings and yields 1.50%.

Ryder System, Inc. (R) operates as a logistics and transportation company worldwide. It operates through three segments: Fleet Management Solutions (FMS), Supply Chain Solutions (SCS), and Dedicated Transportation Solutions (DTS).

The company raised quarterly dividends by 14.10% to $0.81/share. This is the 20th consecutive annual dividend increase for this dividend achiever. The company has managed to grow dividends at an annualized rate of 4.65% over the past 5 years.

Between 2014 and 2023, the company managed to grow earnings from $4.14/share to $8.90/share.

The company is expected to earn $12.04/share in 2024.

The stock sells for 10.40 times forward earnings and yields 2.50%.

The J. M. Smucker Company (SJM) manufactures and markets branded food and beverage products worldwide. It operates in four segments: U.S. Retail Coffee, U.S. Retail Frozen Handheld and Spreads, U.S. Retail Pet Foods, and Sweet Baked Snacks.

The company increased quarterly dividends by 2% to $1.08/share. This is the 27th consecutive annual dividend increase for this dividend aristocrat. The company has managed to grow dividends at an annualized rate of 5% over the past 5 years.

Between 2015 and 2024, the company managed to grow earnings from $3.33/share to $7.15/share.

The company is expected to earn $10/share in 2024.

The stock sells for 11.10 times forward earnings and yields 3.82%.

Unum Group (UNM) provides financial protection benefit solutions primarily in the United States, the United Kingdom, Poland, and internationally. It operates through Unum US, Unum International, Colonial Life, and Closed Block segment. 

The company raised quarterly dividends by 15.10% to $0.42/share. This is the 16th year of consecutive annual dividend increases for this dividend achiever. The company has managed to grow dividends at an annualized rate of 7.25% over the past 5 years.

Between 2014 and 2023, the company managed to grow earnings from $1.57/share to $6.53/share.

The company is expected to earn $8.23/share in 2024.

The stock sells for 6.25 times forward earnings and yields 3.25%.

FS Bancorp, Inc. (FSBW) operates as a bank holding company for 1st Security Bank of Washington that provides banking and financial services to local families, local and regional businesses, and industry niches. The company operates in two segments, Commercial and Consumer Banking; and Home Lending. 

The company increased quarterly dividends by 3.80% to $0.27/share. This is the second dividend increase this year bringing the dividend 8% higher than its level from the same time last year. This is the 11th consecutive annual dividend increase for this dividend achiever. The company has managed to grow dividends at an annualized rate of 30.40% over the past 5 years.

Between 2014 and 2023, the company managed to grow earnings from $0.76/share to $4.63/share.

The bank is expected to earn $4.21/share in 2024.

The stock sells for 8.70 times forward earnings and yields 2.85%.

Relevant Articles:

- Fourteen Dividend Growth Stocks Raising Dividends Last Week

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

The Importance of Diversification and Risk Management

With Dividend Growth Stocks, when I am wrong, the most I can lose is the amount I invested, minus any dividends I allocated elsewhere.

But when I am right, those winners can pay for several "losers".

Let me illustrate it with a few examples.

About 13 years ago, I initiated a position in Walgreen's (WBA)

It offered a good valuation at 14 times earnings and a dividend yield of 2.50%. It also had a high dividend growth of 17%/year over the preceding decade, as well as a 10% earnings growth. Ironically, many dividend investors at the time viewed it as a "growth stock". It was for the first time in a long time been available at a very good entry valuation too.

I held the stock for a long time.

However, I sold the stock after it cut dividends on January 4, 2024. If you look at the total returns, it basically lost money. While I probably did a little better because I put the dividends elsewhere, rather than DRIPped them, I also added to it as well.

About the same time in 2011 I also initiated a position in Lowe's (LOW).

It offered a good valuation at 16.60 times earnings and a 2.90% dividend yield. The company had high dividend growth of 31.50%/year over the preceding decade. However, earnings per share growth was 9%. I bought it as the valuation was pretty good, despite the fact that the housing crisis was somewhat of a headwind.

I still own the stock. It has paid for several Walgreen's. 

This is why it is important to allocate a certain amount to a security, and then give it as much opportunity to compound earnings, dividends and intrinsic value as possible.  While some companies would fail to live up to expectations, there would be a few that would wildly exceed them. It is hard to predict the specific winners in advance. The best on can do is stick to their process, and patiently sit on their stocks. There is a natural Pareto principle in investing too, where a small number of companies would likely be responsible for a large portion of returns.

Those lucky few would be the difference between a portfolio making a decent return and a portfolio barely even making a return. If someone had sold them early, they would have likely sabotaged their portfolio. Hence why it is important to water the flowers and pluck the weeds. 

In other words, keeps losses to the amount invested, so that limits losses when you are wrong. But keep invested in a position for as long as possible, which gives you maximum chances of reaping the maximum potential returns from an investment.

It is also very helpful to review past investments, in an effort to learn and hopefully improve. I have learned the importance of not selling, and staying invested as long as possible. 

I have also learned that it is important to strike when I see an opportunity, rather than sit and twiddle my thumbs. Those are what Buffett calls "mistakes of omission". This is where you find a good company, but you fail to invest due to "reasons". 

I personally missed investing in Eli Lilly (LLY) in 2009, which had done tremendously well. I also missed investing in Pfizer (PFE), which hadn't. However, a combined invested in Eli Lilly and Pfizer would have done very well in a diversified portfolio. 

What is the point of this article?

It is to share experience, and lessons I have learned along the way.

This post illustrates the importance of having a diversified portfolio and practice sound risk management. Diversification can definitely protect against risks, and I am a big fan of it.

It's also important to manage risk, and have a plan of how much to bet on a company, when to sell and how long to hold for.

In a diversified portfolio, your winners would do much better than the losers. Even if you have a few bad apples, the winners would likely more than pay for them, and still result in an overall good results. 

One definitely needs to let the winners win for as long as possible, in order to pay for the losers down the road. Selling too early could be the difference between making money and losing money overall.

Monday, July 8, 2024

Buffett on ignoring stock price fluctuations and thinking like a business owner

One of my favorite Berkshire Hathaway letters to shareholders is the one from 2013. It left a very big impression on me, mostly because it discussed some important lessons on dealing with market fluctuations. The lessons were illustrated by two investments that Buffett had made.

The investments were in a farm in Nebraska and a New York property adjacent to NYU.

He made these investments at what he believed to be a low price. In the case of the farm, Buffett tried to estimate how much agricultural products like soybeans and corn can be produced. He looked at estimated costs, and calculated the effect on future productivity improvements.  While he knew that there will be disappointing years, he did know that over time, things would be ok. As a result he held on to the farm. It cost $280,000 in 1986 and had an yield of about 10%. By 2013, the farm had increased five times in value, and tripled its earnings. In this deal, he seeked the expertise of his son Howard, who is a farmer.

The other property he invested in 1993 was the one close to NYU. It also had an unlevered yield of 10%, When analyzing the deal, Buffett looked for improvements such as replacing tenants that weren’t charged market rents with new ones as well as leasing vacant stores. He partnered with a couple experienced real estate investors, who knew how to manage the property and unlock value.

As a result of a couple of debt refinancing, expiring leases which were signed at higher rates, and better management of operations, annual distributions increased to 35% of the original equity investment. In addition, he also received several special distributions totaling more than 150% of the original investment. Annual distributions being compared to original cost remind me of the Yield on Cost indicator than many dividend growth investors use. 

Buffett used these investments in order to illustrate several fundamentals of investing:

- You don’t need to be an expert in order to achieve satisfactory investment returns

- Focus on the future productivity of the asset you are considering.

- Think only of what the properties would produce and cared not at all about their daily valuations

- If you instead focus on the prospective price change of a contemplated purchase, you are speculating

- Forming macro opinions or listening to the macro or market predictions of others is a waste of time. What the economy, interest rates, or the stock market might do in the years immediately following is of no importance of making those investments.

There was a big difference between investing in businesses and investing in stocks however. Equities offer minute by minute prices. Yet, his farm or real estate do not produce quotes.

Warren Buffett is famous for saying :

 ‘‘After we buy a stock, consequently, we would not be distrurbed if markets closed for a year or two. We don’t need a daily quote on our 100 percent position in See’s to validate our well being. Why, then, should we need a quote on our 7 percent interest in Coke (KO)?’’

Sometimes Mr Market offers a tremendous bargain and sometimes Mr Market offers a ridiculously high price for an asset. Most of the time, it pays to just ignore Mr Market, unless you want to take advantage of this moody fellow.

People who focus too much on stock price fluctuations, end up being influenced by the manic depressive Mr Market. They feel the urge to do something, which leads to many investors selling low and buying high.

Most of these investors would likely do better by sticking to private businesses and real estate, where they do not get a daily quote. This let’s them focus on the business, its fundamentals and ignore all the noise. For many folks, the instant liquidity that the stock market offers is more of a curse, than a blessing. Perhaps these folks would be better off buying and owning a private business. But if they were to invest in equities, they need to see themselves as partial owners of a business enterprise, and not view stocks as some sort of a lottery ticket. Perhaps that’s why Buffett has stated that you should not buy a business, unless you are willing to hold it for a decade, even if they closed the stock market for ten years.

Thinking like a business owner has a lot of advantages. Mostly, it lets you focus on the business, and ignore noise. Second, it helps you stay patient, when everyone around you is panicking. This was evident during the Global Financial Crisis, and was evident during the Covid-19 crash in 2020. Few investors can sit patiently, when their stocks are going down or even going up. 

This is why I try to tell investors to focus on the dividend stream produced by the companies they own, and try to research to see if the payout is adequate and that earnings can grow over time. This lifehack of focusing on the stability of the dividend stream lets the investor avoid being scared away by share price fluctuations. If you are an investor in the accumulation phase, stock price declines should be viewed with excitement, because lower prices mean that future retirement income can be bought on sale. 

If you are a retired investor, you should ignore price fluctuations. Instead, focus on the income from your investments.

Both groups should care about prices only when they have money to invest.

Relevant Articles:

Monday, July 1, 2024

Kroger (KR) Dividend Stock Analysis

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 hiked quarterly dividends by 10.30% to 32 cents/share in June 2024. This marked the 18th consecutive year of annual dividend increases for the company. 

"The dividend increase is a reflection of the Board of Directors' confidence in the strength of our diverse model," said Rodney McMullen, Kroger's Chairman and CEO. "Kroger is delivering consistent operating results and generating strong free cash flow, which enables us to return value to shareholders while investing to grow our business."

During the past decade, Kroger has managed to grow dividends at an annualized rate of 13.66%. 

Kroger managed to grow earnings per share from $1.45 /share in 2014 to $2.99/share in 2024. The company expects to generate 4.55/share in 2025. 

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 2014 and 2024, the number of shares outstanding has gone down from 1.040 billion shares to 725 million shares. 

The dividend payout ratio increased from 21% in 2014 to 38% in 2024. 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. If Kroger is unable to jump start earnings growth however, there will be a natural limit to further dividend growth. I would get worried if earnings are not growing, but dividends are, and the payout ratio exceeds 60%. 

Currently the stock is attractively valued at 11.26 times forward earnings and offer an attractive dividend yield of 2.55%. 

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