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International Paper

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International Paper (IP)

Company Profile : Memphis, Tenn.-based International paper is a global paper and packaging company which is complemented by North American merchant distribution system, with main markets and manufacturing operations in North America, Europe, Latin America, Russia, Asia and North Africa.

On Jan. 11, International Paper raised its quarterly payout by 50% to 18.75 cents per share.

International Paper will make its next dividend payment on March 15 to shareholders of record on Feb.15, bringing its yield to around 2.6%.

Fundamental improvements have been the name of the game for International Paper in recent years. In 2005, the firm divested a number of longstanding timber assets, a related business that was nonetheless a distraction from the company's core competency.

As management shifted IP's focus to manufacturing paper and packaging products, it also put added emphasis on improving balance sheet health, which had been languishing amid cheap capital costs and steady sales -- an environment conducive to borrowing. Today, the company is still not "cheap" by traditional valuation metrics, but it's managed to improve its mid-term outlook.

As IP benefits from increased demand, it should be able to wean itself off of limited-time government subsidies with minimal pain. The company's burgeoning international business, which currently contributes 20% to the top line, should help considerably.

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