Buy Sysco Foods, Bristol-Myers Now Before Their Dividend Payouts

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Sysco Foods (SYY) and Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) are both scheduled to go ex-dividend this week. These stocks should be on your radar, especially if you are using a dividend capture strategy.

Under this strategy investors and traders buy stocks for the sole purpose of collecting the quarterly dividend and then immediately selling the stock after the dividend cash payment has been paid the company. It requires pinpoint timing.

Food distributor Sysco will go ex-dividend on Tuesday while drug giant Bristol-Myers will go ex-dividend Wednesday. To qualify for a dividend check from either company, investors must own Sysco shares prior to July 2 and own shares of Bristol-Myers prior to July 6.

Those dates are important because it's the last day an investor will appear on the shareholder roster at either company. Sysco's 30-cent quarterly dividend, yielding 3.20%, will be paid on July 24, while investors of Bristol-Myers can expect their 37-cent quarterly dividend that yields 2.20% on August 3.

Should investors hold these stocks beyond the dividend payment? Lets take a look at whether that's a good idea, starting with Sysco Foods.

SYY Chart
SYY data by YCharts

Despite being one of the largest food distribution companies in the world, Texas-based Sysco rarely gets mentioned when discussing a market leader with enormous growth potential. With SYY shares atround $38, down 4.7% on the year and flat in the past 12 months -- trailing the broader averages in both periods -- now would be the time to bet on a possible second-half turnaround in SYY stock.

Granted, Sysco's profit margins continue to be a headwind and the pace of the foodservice industry's recovery has been slow. But Sysco, which recently terminated its $3.5 billion merger bid for rival US Foods, has shown a willingness to spend money if it means securing more growth and market share. So patience would be the best play here, given the company's annual dividend yield 3.20%, is 1.2 percentage points above the S&P 500 (SPX) rate of 2.00%.

Moreover, while SYY stock hasn't underwhelmed in terms of performance, it remains one of the safer bets out there. Not only is the company projected to grow earnings at an annual rate of 11% over the next five years, there's an implied 10% gain on the table based on its analyst 12-month target of $41. If SYY does reach its high analyst target of $50, that translates to 35% gains in the next 12 months from current levels of around $37.

Next is Bristol-Myers Squibb, whose shares, at $67, are up nearly 14% so far in 2015. BMY stock should be bought only for the dividend capture strategy, not as a long-term hold. Unlike SYY, whose price to earnings ratio of 25 trades at a slight premium to the S&P 500, BMY stock is not cheap at a P/E of 50. That's more than twice the average multiple of stocks in the S&P 500 index, which trades at a P/E of 21.

And even on a forward-looking basis, projecting BMY to earn $2.30 for fiscal 2016, the P/E drops to 29, which is still higher than the S&P 500 forward P/E of 17. And that's not what investors should want given BMY's full-year 2015 revenue is projected to decline more than 3%.

While the projected 7.4% revenue increase for full-year 2016 does show some optimism, it's also too aggressive, given the company's recent loss of patents from key products like blood-thinner drug Plavix. Bristol-Myers must invest in research & development to fight off the threats from generic competition. And that means it will have to spend more money, which can pressure its profits in the quarters ahead.

All told, with BMY scheduled to pay its dividend on Aug. 3, investors can buy the stock between now July 3 to qualify for the dividend and then sell the shares at any point after July 7 to avoid the risk of the pullback BMY stock.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no shares in any of the stocks mentioned.

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