Nash Finch (NAFC), a provider of wholesale and retail food distribution, has been focusing on paying down debt, which stood above $400 million back in 2005 and is now below $300 million and dropping. All the while, the annual dividend has been fixed at 72 cents, year after year, equating to a current payout ratio below 25%.
Though management aims to take debt down even more, Nash Finch's solid recurring cash flow should start to boost talk of a dividend hike. Investors are only mildly pleased with the current 2.6% dividend yield, but by taking the payout ratio up to 40%, that yield would quickly move above 5%.
Standard Motor ProductsAuto parts supplier Standard Motor Products (SMP), one of the highest-yielding automotive stocks, faces limited growth prospects, with sales likely to grow less than 5% in 2012 and again in 2013. But investors can be count on solid profits; Standard Motor earned $1.07 a share in 2010 and $1.57 a share in 2011 (prior to a one-time tax gain). A slowly improving economy should help further the profit momentum, and analysts see the company earning around $1.70 a share this year and around $1.90 a share in 2013. Yet management appears a bit gun-shy when it comes to the dividend. Standard Motor maintained an annual dividend of 36 cents a share from 2003 through 2008, before eliminating it in 2009 while the U.S. auto industry was in a funk. The dividend has been slowly rebuilding to a recent 28 cents but could easily move up to 75 cents, implying a reasonable payout ratio of 40%. That would be good for a 4.1% yield. The Andersons The Andersons (ANDE), a diversified provider of agricultural, freight and retail-related products, has been doling out ever-higher dividends for the last decade. The company has done it again with a recent hike in the quarterly payout to 15 cents, implying an annual dividend of 60 cents. That's not good enough. This is a company that has made at least $1.79 a share in each of the last seven years, more recently earning $4 to $5 a share. How about boosting the payout ratio up to 40%? That implies a $1.80 annual dividend (based on 2012 forecasts), which would push the yield to around 3.75%.
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