Dividend investing is difficult. It is simple to go to the market and pick the stocks with the highest yield, but this strategy is fraught with danger, as those high yield figures could indicate the market’s lack of faith in the company to maintain its payout.
So in this four part series I am going to pitch several stocks that meet the criteria for several different styles of dividend investing. My focus will first be on the conservative dividend investor, who is looking for safety and stability from a buy-and-hold dividend stock that offers a payout above the market average and inflation.
I believe the two best contenders for the conservative dividend investor’s portfolio are Urstadt Biddle Properties Inc (NYSE:UBA), currently offering a 4.5% yield, and AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T), currently offering a 4.9% yield.
One of the best places to start dividend company analysis is the company’s dividend history. Companies that have paid and raised dividend payouts consistently for extended periods of time are less likely to cut or stop their payout.
|Company||Dividend Payment and Growth|
|Urstadt Biddle Properties||17 years|
AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) has been consistently paying out and raising its dividend every year for the past 28. Meanwhile, Urstadt Biddle Properties Inc (NYSE:UBA) has also been consistently raising its dividend for nearly two decades. With such strong dividend histories from both companies I have plenty of confidence in their ability to make future payments.
Balance Sheet Strength
Strong balance sheets are key in establishing the strength of dividend-paying companies. As I have recently highlighted in this article, companies that have weak balance sheets and especially high levels of debt and high debt interest costs can be seriously limited in their ability to grow and return cash to shareholders.
|Debt to Equity||0.44||0.74|
|Debt to EBIT||5.6x||5x|
REITs are usually associated with high levels of debt as they borrow to finance their purchases of property. However, Urstadt Biddle Properties Inc (NYSE:UBA) has kept its debt relatively low according to last year’s figures. Urstadt Biddle Properties Inc (NYSE:UBA)’s debt only amounted to 0.44% of shareholder equity, and the company had a debt to EBIT level of just over five-and-a-half times.
AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T), on the other hand, has a relatively high level of debt. That said, AT&T’s debt is about in-line with that of its peers in the rest of the telecoms sector, in particular Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), which has a net debt to equity level that is roughly the same. AT&T’s current ratio is worrying however, as it appears that the company cannot cover all of its liabilities falling due within twelve months with current assets, although once again the company’s closest peer Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) is in the same position.
AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T)’s debt only amounts to five times earnings before interest and tax, less than Urstadt Biddle Properties Inc (NYSE:UBA)’s.
Debt remains under control and at suitable levels at both AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) and Urstadt Biddle Properties Inc (NYSE:UBA), which gives me further confidence in these two companies’ abilities to maintain their payouts to investors.
At first glance it would appear that AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T)’s dividend is not covered by earnings. During 2012, the company earned $1.28 per share but paid $1.80 per share in dividends to shareholders. Although it appears that AT&T is issuing more cash to shareholders than it can afford, the company’s cash flows shows that the payout is well covered.
|Operating Cash Flow||$52.9||$38,910|
|Investing Cash Flow||$11.2||$19,420|
|Stock Repurchase (Issuance)||($91.7)||$12,300|
|Issuance/(Reduction) of Debt||($17.3)||$4,750|
|Free Cash Flow||$3.8||$9,210|
|Dividend Cover by Operating Cash Flow After the Deduction of Investing Activities||0.98x||1.9x|