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UPDATE: Charts in this story have been updated to reflect the day's trading.
Value investors like to preach the gospel of buying good stocks at great prices. Excellent wisdom, but with the stock market breaking into new high territory lately, the challenge is not so much where to find good companies but where to find safe dividend stocks at great prices.
Here are four large cap stocks that could be of interest for retired dividend investors. Each has at least a 3% yield and a one-year total return no better than -20%.
These are interesting investments to consider for our Conservative Retirees dividend portfolio.
1. BT Group PLC (BT)
If you are in the UK or one of 170 countries, the name BT Group is as familiar its predecessor, British Telecom. The former government-owned telecom utility is now into offering a full compliment of fixed-line, broadband, mobile and Television products and services.
It delivers these services through six business groups: Global Services, Business and Public Sector, Consumer, EE, Wholesale and Ventures and Openreach. The company was incorporated in 2001 and is headquartered in London.
Fewer than a dozen players indirectly control the global communications market. In many countries the market is increasingly reaching maturity resulting in slower growth.
However, this still leaves half of the worlds population either un-served or under served. This is especially accurate when consideration is given to mobile and Internet services. The amount of capital required to enter, compete and operate in this arena is great and is almost always influenced by government regulation. So the big are likely to get even bigger.
BT Group has a long history paying a semi-annual dividend. The current payout of $0.96 offers investors a 3.6% yield. For a utility, BT's payout has been more volatile than average. The current payout is nearly 50% greater than 2009 but 45% below peak 2014 levels. The current payout ratio is a moderate 42% of EPS and 40% of Free Cash Flow, which is supportive of the current dividend payment.
2. Coca-Cola Partners PLC (CCE)
CCE represents the European bottling and marketing for the Coca-Cola Company, which is one of Warren Buffett's favorite dividend stocks. The company offers the five-major brands: Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Fanta and Capri Sun to a 13-nation customer group comprising approximately 300 million potential customers.
Last year the company sold over 2.5 billion cases to thousands of retail outlets. The Coca-Cola brand is a highly regarded brand virtually throughout Europe.
The non-alcoholic beverage market in Europe is huge with a fairly high degree of consumer loyalty. Historically, per capita consumption of cola beverages have been well below those in the United States and Coke has been on a mission to change habits.
The company spends heavily on lifestyle marketing and consumer promotion to broaden consumption. It is making steady progress overall with per capita consumption rising internationally. The well-recognized Coca-Cola brand is an irreplaceable asset to these efforts. Even so, consumption of cola beverages remains more of an occasional or specialty experience than in the United States.
CCE has been paying quarterly dividends for more than 20 years with a dividend growth streak in excess of five years. The last regular quarterly dividend increase took place in March 2016. Except for the extraordinary payout in May 2016, the next increase is likely in the first quarter of 2017.
CCE operating margins are about average for the soft drink bottling industry and clearly enough to finance current operations. This is important for investors since the company's long-term debt is elevated at 78% of total capital.
The shares of CCE have fallen 25% in the past three months, bringing the valuation for the first time in line with KO at around 25-times trailing twelve-month earnings. This offers investors the appeal of dividend yield, dividend growth and possible capital appreciation.
MetLife is one of the oldest and most enduring companies in America, drawing its origins to 1863 in New York City. Over the past 16 decades it has grown from a simple provider of life insurance and annuities (60%) to a financial colossus that extends to employee benefits and asset management products and services.
From its famous Park Avenue location, MET reaches 90 million customers. This includes over 60 countries in Asia, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East that adds to nearly 30% of its business.
The insurance and financial services industry is highly competitive in all respects. Great importance is placed on attracting new retail and corporate customers since longevity is a key to success in the main insurance and annuity segments of MET's business.
At the same time, adequate reserves must be maintained to meet eventual policy payments to beneficiaries. MET earns its income making actuarial assumptions and earning an interest spread in the interim.
Low interest rates combined with historically narrow interest spreads have disrupted fixed income markets for the past several years. As long-term fixed income investments have matured, insurance companies have been hard pressed to reinvest these proceeds as profitably.
For MET this has caused the company to alter actuarial assumptions and change reserve practices that was announced with the most recent quarterly performance. During this period, the company's revenues fell by 2% to $17 billion and per share profits by 93% to $0.06.
MET has paid dividends either to policyholders or stockholders for more than 90 years with regular increases over the past four. Yes, the financial industry is going through difficult times but it is not the first.
During the financial crisis in 2008, MET revenues increased 8% while per share profits posted negative growth of 24%. The company consistently paid dividends during this period. This means that MET could be less sensitive to bear market pressures than the average company.
The payout ratio is just 41% of earnings-per-share and only 13% of free cash flow. This is unusually low even for insurance companies that are required to maintain adequate reserves for policyholder payments.
MET's balance sheet is not particularly leveraged, and profitability margins are above average. Operating margins at 10.7% are the highest in nearly five years as are the 6% return on invested capital and 8% return on equity.
MET stock has seriously under performed the general market, driving up the $1.60 per share payout to a well above average 3.9% yield.
Over the past decade, dividends have compounded at an 11% average annual rate and by 14.9% over the past five years. If the company can continue to grow dividends and the stock price recovers, MET could offer investors attractive total returns.
UBS is a $37 billion revenue-generating machine providing financial services to high net worth individuals and institutions throughout the world.
What makes UBS different from many others is that 50% of it business comes from fees from private wealth management. Investment banking accounts for 27% of all revenues while commodity banking services for personal and corporate clients contributes 15%. Asset management for corporate benefit plans takes up the remaining 8%.
In its core private wealth business, UBS has a loyal following among the world's wealthiest families. It takes about $10 million just to open a private bank relationship. Monthly fees are based on assets under management and do not vary greatly year to year.
Approximately 80% of its core income comes from recurring fees. UBS does not seek the highest absolute investment returns. Most clients are more concerned with capital preservation. This means that UBS enjoys some stability in its business.
UBS stock has fallen over 28% in 2016, pushing its $0.63 per share dividend to a yield of 4.5%. Dividend payments are limited to once a year so investors needing more frequent income will find their needs better met elsewhere.
UBS cut its dividend during the financial crisis and only recently began making payments again. Financial stocks usually employ a lot of leverage, which can make them riskier investments during recessions. As well, banks with heavy European exposure are being hit hard today, so investors should proceed with caution.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no position in any of the stocks mentioned.