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Wed. Apr. 29, 2009

Elite Dividend Stocks *

There are many lists of dividend companies such as S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats, US Broad Dividend Achievers™ Index and The U.S. Dividend Champions. They all have one thing in common – trying to narrow the population to the very best dividend companies. When combined, as I did with the Stock Ideas list, this is a large and daunting list of 319 unique companies.  So, how do we find the Elite companies on this list?

In an effort to narrow down the list, I considered what criteria makes an Elite Dividend company. Here is what I came up with (financial data from morningstar.com):

A Long Track Record Of Consecutive Dividend Increases: Aristocrats and Champions have increased their dividends for 25 consecutive years, while Achievers have done so for 10 years. The quickest way to narrow the list down was only include companies with 35 or more years of consecutive dividend increases. This reduced the population to 65 companies.

Ability To Generate Positive Free Cash Flows: To have cash available for dividends, a company must have cash left over after paying the operating expenses and normal capital expenditures. For this I looked for companies that had positive free cash flow for the last 10 years.

Free Cash Flow Sufficient To Pay The Dividend: Free cash flow can be positive, but still not enough to cover an increasing dividend. To ensure adequate coverage, I screened for companies with a 60% or less Free Cash Flow payout ratio.

Low Debt: Dividends paid out of Free Cash Flow must compete for other needs of the business such as interest and debt payments.  Lower debt and interest requirements provide more cash for dividend payments. For this item, I eliminated all companies that had a debt to total capital percent in excess of 35%.

Low Risk: An Elite Dividend company will provide you a superior return without subjecting your investment to undue risk. My usual measure of risk indirectly incorporates the stock’s current valuation. I wanted this list to be valuation independent (e.g. a great stock could be on the list, but not be a buy because it is overvalued). For this measure I opted to use S&P’s Qualitative Risk Assessment. This is described by S&P as “the equity analyst’s view of a given company’s operational risk, or the risk of a firm’s ability to continue as an ongoing concern. The Qualitative Risk Assessment is a relative ranking to the S&P U.S. STARS universe, and should be reflective of risk factors related to a company’s operations, as opposed to risk and volatility measures associated with share prices. The rankings include Low, Medium and High.” I only included companies with a Low risk rating.

My Elite Dividends List that started with 319 companies, then dropped to 65 companies now after considering all the above, it is left with the following six companies:

Nucor Corp. (NUE) – Recent Analysis

  • Consecutive Dividend Increases: 35
  • Debt % of Total Capital: 29.2%
  • Free Cash Flow Payout: 22.9%

Illinois Tool Works (ITW) – Recent Analysis

  • Consecutive Dividend Increases: 45
  • Debt % of Total Capital: 32.4%
  • Free Cash Flow Payout: 29.9%

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) – Recent Analysis

  • Consecutive Dividend Increases: 47
  • Debt % of Total Capital: 21.8%
  • Free Cash Flow Payout: 42.7%

3M Company (MMM) – Recent Analysis

  • Consecutive Dividend Increases: 51
  • Debt % of Total Capital: 17.6%
  • Free Cash Flow Payout: 40.9%

Procter & Gamble Co. (PG) – Recent Analysis

  • Consecutive Dividend Increases: 52
  • Debt % of Total Capital: 34.5%
  • Free Cash Flow Payout: 37.7%

Genuine Parts Co. (GPC) – Recent Analysis

  • Consecutive Dividend Increases: 53
  • Debt % of Total Capital: 17.7%
  • Free Cash Flow Payout: 59.4%

This is not a buy list. As noted above, the Elite Dividend List ignores valuation and other factors you must consider before purchasing one of these companies. Also, there were some very good companies that were close, but came up slightly short in just one category such as:

  • Coca-Cola Company (KO)  had a Free Cash Flow payout % of 61.0% vs. a 60% target
  • Sysco Corp. (SYY) had a debt to total capital percentage of 37.5% vs. a 35% target
  • PepsiCo Inc. (PEP) had a debt to total capital percentage 40.2% vs. a 35% target
  • Lancaster Colony Corp. (LANC) did not have an S&P Qualitative Risk Assessment
  • H.B. Fuller Company (FUL) had an S&P Qualitative Risk Assessment of Medium vs. a Low target
  • Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) had a debt to total capital percentage of 39.9% vs. a 35% target

Full Disclosure: Long NUE, ITW, JNJ, MMM, PG, KO, SYY, PEP, WMT (my income holdings)


7 Responses to “Elite Dividend Stocks *”

  1. D4L,

    That sounds like a great list. But with only 6 companies I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. In order to have at least some adequate diversification I won’t settle with less than 30 stocks in a portfolio from a variety of industries.

    Best Regards,

    Dividend Growth Investor

  2. Sampson says:

    The funny thing about this list, had you made it 1.5 years ago – it would be a lot largely, with many names that look terrible today.

    My take from all the recent madness is that

    “Ability To Generate Positive Free Cash Flows” – and identifying the risks to this is the most important factor.

    Take GE for example – because the majority of their growth over the past 5+ years was coming from their financial services division, derailment to that part of the business could have (and did have) disasterous effects on earnings potential. Almost like a too many eggs in one basket for them.

  3. Jae Jun says:

    From what I’ve seen ITW is extremely cheap at the moment

  4. These six companies can be a near ideal anchor stocks in a dividend growth portfolio.

  5. al says:

    good list but where does a company like P&G get growth with no big new brands coming out and the only other growth would be from aquisitions which Gillette proved to be a huge drain on share holder equity? Plus who will be able to afford their high prices?

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