With Walmart (WMT) having missed Wall Street's earnings estimates in two straight quarters, and with the world's largest retailer forecasting tepid profits in the quarters ahead, its shares have gotten punished. They're down some 31% on the year.
As the worst-performing stock in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) , Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart won't impress investors with its immediate growth prospects. But Walmart, whose shares will trade ex-dividend Wednesday, does pay a solid yield of 3.03% -- more than one full percentage point higher than the average dividend payer in the S&P 500 (SPX) index.
Walmart pays a 49 cent quarterly dividend. This will mark the fifth straight quarter that is has made the same payment, though it has raised its dividends some 62% since 2010. To qualify for a dividend, investors must own WMT shares on or before Dec. 2, when the retailer will finalize the roster of shareholders to whom it will send payments for the quarter.
Investors of record as of Friday can expect their dividends to hit their brokerage accounts on Jan. 4 2016. This amounts to roughly one full month from the record date -- a relatively long period to wait, if you're buying WMT stock just for its dividend. But waiting might not be so bad in this case.
The company is resetting its business to better compete with Amazon -- not just in e-commerce, but also in the overall shopping experience. This includes plans to give customers the option of ordering products online and pick up their merchandise at its stores, allowing Walmart to leverage its massive real estate into fulfillment centers. This has the potential to yield not only higher sales, but also higher margins.
What's more, we're now in the key holiday shopping season. Any boost in sales and profits could send WMT stock higher ahead of its fourth-quarter earnings results, due out in February. In addition, based on fiscal 2017 earnings estimates of $4.19 a share, the stock is priced at just 13 times estimates, or four points below the forward P/E of the S&P 500 index.
In other words, Walmart, which has a consensus hold rating, is priced for little to no growth in the quarters and years ahead. From my vantage point, Walmart should have an easier time beating those estimates, given that they're so low. Walmart's dividend yield and its ongoing business improvements offer some compelling reasons to be patient with WMT stock.