Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Thomson Reuters - 24 Years of Dividend Growth

Part of the challenge of working through the Canadian Dividend All-Star list is analyzing companies you have never considered purchasing in industries you know very little about. Such is the case today for Thomson Reuters ("TRI"), a publishing company with a 24-year history of raising its dividend. 

Company Overview

Thomson Reuters is truly a worldwide provider of news and information for professional markets with operations in over 100 countries.  The company reports on three main business segments: Financial & Risk (55% of FY16 revenue), Legal (31% of FY16 revenue) and Tax & Accounting (14% of FY16 revenue). In addition, the company also operates Reuters, which provides real-time multimedia news and information to newspapers, television and cable networks, and Websites. 

Dividends

After announcing a 1.5% dividend increase on February 9th the company's dividend yield is currently ~3.2%. The earnings payout ratio is relatively high at 65% of the trailing 12-months adjusted EPS.  The 3, 5, and 10 year dividend growth rates are unimpressive at 1.5%, 1.9%, and 4.4% respectively.
% annual average growth planned through 2021
Valuation
The current share price of ~$57 has lead to a trailing P/E of 27X. This value is relatively high given the stock has traded in the 20-25X range for most of the past 5 years. Looking at EV/EBITA leads to a similar conclusion, with the company currently trading at 12.5X in contrast with their 5-year average in the 9-12X range.

Catalysts

There are a couple key reasons why you would consider adding Thomson Reuters to your investment portfolio.

1. History of Cashflow Generation in Support of Rising Dividend
- Although TRI is classified in the "consumer cyclical" sector, the company has a proven history of converting their revenue (which is mainly derived from subscription services) into positive cashflow and then using it to support a slowly rising dividend. The company has managed to keep both shareholders and debt holders satisfied with their actions, and benefits from an investment grade BBB+/Stable issuer rating. 
2. Good Industry & Geographical Diversification
- Unlike many Canadian companies, TRI has excellent geographical sales diversification, deriving revenue from over 100 countries worldwide. As indicated above in the "Company Overview", each of their three reportable segments generates material amounts of sales. 

** Although I have listed three "Catalysts" in each of my four past reviews of Canadian dividend growers, I do not feel there is a strong enough third catalyst to include for Thomson Reuters. This will likely become more apparent when reviewing the three drawbacks. 

Drawbacks

Although there some good reasons to consider investing in Thomson Reuters, there are major drawbacks to consider as well. 

1. Slowing Dividend Growth
- Although TRI’s management does not specifically issue guidance regarding dividend growth, since 2012 management has increased their dividend by two cents per share each year, meaning the dividend growth percentages will decrease if the two cent trend continues. With the latest dividend raise being only 1.5%, Thomson's dividend growth is starting to lag inflation. 
2. Revenue Decline with No Specific Growth Catalysts Identified
Since achieving total revenue of $13.8B in 2011, TRI's revenue has progressively dropped each year to $11.2B in 2016. Although management forecasts "low single-digit revenue growth" in 2017, they did not clearly identify specific strategies to reach this guidance. Profitability has been maintained through expense control in recent years, but will continue to be challenged without topline growth. 
3. High Valuation
Although I can understand an investor wanting to add TRI to their portfolio in order to improve sector and geographical diversification, based on historical valuations, the company seems quite expensive at the current time. Buying the stock at this historically high valuation will likely lead to investors realizing minimal returns on the shares going forward. 
  
Conclusions

Even though I can see why an investor might keep shares of Thomson Reuters that they purchased at a better valuation in their portfolio, I do not see any reason why one would consider adding it as a new position at its current price level. There are enough red flags (slowing dividend growth, revenue decline, and high valuation) that I would caution buying shares of Thomson Reuters until growth catalysts become more apparent. 


Would you consider adding shares of  Thomson Reuters to your portfolio?

Friday, January 27, 2017

My Simplified 2017 Investment Goal

Enough time has passed since writing my somewhat negative self-assessment relating to my 2016 goals that I feel comfortable drafting what I hope to accomplish in 2017. Since I lacked focus while striving toward my three categories of goals last year, I decided to simplify my objectives into a single sentence:

Increase forward dividend income by $2600 while achieving a dollar-weighted average organic dividend growth rate of at least 5%.

Although I dislike using specific numbers on this blog, I know posting a concrete figure for forward dividend income will further motivate me to achieve my objective. To counterbalance any yield chasing in the pursuit of my aggressive forward dividend income goal, the dollar-weighted average organic dividend growth rate of at least 5% is essential. The 5% average growth rate helps me steer clear of sucker yields and hopefully, avoid dividend cuts. The other tactic I used to avoid dividend cuts last year, not buying shares in any company that had not raised their dividend in the past 12-months, will also be re-implemented this year.

I decided against setting budgeting or personal development objectives this year, as I'm trying to simplify my life in advance of the summer of 2017, when my attention will be directed elsewhere. Despite only having a one sentence goal for this year, I feel positive and focused, ready to direct my attention toward achieving my singular financial objective.


Have you set your financial goals for 2017???


Thursday, January 19, 2017

ATCO Ltd. - 24 Years of Dividend Growth

Of the top four companies with the longest annual streaks of dividend increases found on the Canadian Dividend All-Star list, three are in the utility industry. After reviewing both Canadian Utilities Limited and Fortis Inc this post will give an overview of ATCO Ltd. which has a 24-year dividend growth streak.

Company Overview

ATCO Ltd is a Calgary-based utility company with global operations falling into three segments: electricity (46% of YTD revenues at Q316 ), pipelines and liquids (36%), and structures & logistics (18%). ATCO holds controlling interests in Canadian Utilities Limited (52.9% ownership) and ATCO Structures & Logistics Ltd. (75.5% ownership).

Dividends

After announcing a 15% dividend increase on January 12, 2017, the company's dividend yield is currently ~2.9%. The earnings payout ratio is moderate at 55% of the trailing 12 months EPS.  The 3, 5, and 10 year dividend growth rates are very impressive at 15%, 15%, and 10.8% respectively.

Valuation

The current share price of $45 has lead to a trailing P/E of 22X. This value is relatively high given the stock has traded in the 12-14X range for most of the past 5 years. Looking at EV/EBITA leads to a similar conclusion, with the company currently trading at 8.1X in contrast with their 5-year average in the 7-8X range.

Qualitative Catalysts

There are some key reasons why you would consider adding ATCO to your investment portfolio

1. Dividend Growth & Coverage
- The recent 15% dividend increase from ATCO represents the sixth consecutive year that management raised the payout by 15%. With a relatively low payout ratio for a utility company of 55%, the dividend is well covered. Planned capital expenditures of $3.8B over the next two years should help ensure that the dividend continues to grow in the future.
2. Capital Investments Leading to Higher Cashflow Generation
- With a plan to invest $5.3B in regulated utility and contracted capital growth projects between 2016 and 2018, it bodes well to see that past capital investments have led to growing cashflow from operations over the most recent five years. Although past experience is not indicative of future results, it is encouraging to see that the company's growth aspirations are supported by past success.
3. Diversification Gained Through Holding Company Structure
- Compared to the two companies in which they hold controlling interests (Canadian Utilities Ltd. and ATCO Structures & Logistics Ltd.), ATCO provides further geographic and product diversification to a potential investor. The added diversification should lead to smoother cashflows over the long-term, which seems to be the case when comparing ATCO's financial results to those of Canadian Utilities Ltd.


Qualitative Drawbacks

Beyond the fact that the current valuation of the company's shares seems high from a historical perspective, there are some additional drawbacks for investors to consider before adding Canadian Utilities to their investment portfolio.

1. Financing Needed for CAPEX
- With ATCO's aggressive capital expenditure program over the next two years, the company will need to continue to access the debt and capital markets. This financing will result in higher leverage and shareholder dilution. Over the last five years, the company has issued approximately $4.5B of net additional debt in order help fund their CAPEX.
2. Regulatory Risk
- Being involved in regulated businesses entails the risk that future regulatory decisions outside of the company's control could materially impact ATCO's' operations and results. For instance, in October 2016, the Alberta government set the maximum return on equity rate that ATCO could earn on their regulated electricity assets in that province at 8.3% in 2016 raising slightly to 8.5% in 2017. ATCO's regulated assets in different geographical locations adhere to similar capped rates of return.
3. Complexity of Holding Company's Operations
- While reviewing financials for ATCO, I could not accurately determine the amount of their assets subject to regulations, nor could I determine the geographical diversification of their sales. Such is often the case for holding companies whose financial statements are more difficult to understand due to complex financial reporting requirements.

Conclusions

Of the three utility companies I have recently reviewed, I find ATCO the most compelling. Not only do they have a relatively low dividend payout ratio at 55%, their six straight years of dividend growth of 15% and their diversified operations are all strong factors in support of the company. The major downside I see currently is that their valuation is very high by historical standards. Any prolonged weakness in their share price could very well lead to a situation where ATCO would be an excellent long-term utility investment.


What would make you consider adding shares of ATCO Ltd. to your portfolio?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Canadian Western Bank - 25 Years of Dividend Growth

When asked which Canadian bank has the longest record of annual dividend growth, few investors would answer Canadian Western Bank (“CWB”). However, the relatively small Edmonton based bank, CWB has an impressive 25 year dividend growth streak that is the third longest on the Canadian Dividend All-Star list.

Company Overview

CWB provides various personal and business banking services through its 42 branches located in Canada’s four western provinces. The bank specializes in mid-market commercial banking, real estate and construction financing, equipment financing and leasing, and energy lending. CWB was active making two acquisitions in the wealth management sector in 2016 along with acquiring the loan portfolio and related business assets of GE Capital’s Canadian franchise financing business.

Dividends

After announcing a 4.5% dividend increase in August 2016, the company's dividend yield is currently ~3.0%. The earnings payout ratio is moderate at 44% of the trailing 12-months EPS.  The 3, 5, and 10 year dividend growth rates are impressive at 8.4%, 10.5%, and 13.0% respectively.
% annual average growth planned through 2021
Valuation

CWB's share price was pretty consistent around $30 in recent months leading to a trailing P/E of 14X. This value is toward the higher end of the average P/E of 10-15X range for the past 5 years. Looking at Price/Book Value provides a different perspective with the company’s current 1.3X multiple being on the lower end of the average range of 1.1X to 2.0X over the past 5-years.  

Qualitative Catalysts

There are some obvious reasons why you would consider adding CWB to your investment portfolio.

1. The Dividend Streak Covering Multiple Business Cycles
- Despite a meltdown in oil prices that severely impacted their home province of Alberta in 2014, a global financial crisis in 2009, and multiple troughs in the business cycle, CWB has proven their resilience by raising their dividend for 25 straight years. Despite not having the size of Canada’s five big banks (~$25B of assets vs $501B of CIBC <- the smallest of the big five), CWB seems more committed to rewarding their long-term investors via regular dividend increases.
2. Effective Credit Management Policies
- The two biggest surprises to me while reviewing financial metrics for CWB were that only 1% of its total loans related to oil and gas production, and that non-performing loans were only 0.5% of total loans over the past 12-months.  These two metrics taken together show me that the bank has effective credit management policies that have led to a diversified loan portfolio. 
3. Growing Geographical Diversification
- With its roots in Western Canada, I assumed that the majority of company's loans would be related to Alberta. However, I underestimated the growing geographical diversification the company has successfully undertaken in recent years. Although Alberta represents 36% of total loans, British Columbia also accounts for 36%, while Saskatchewan at 6%, Manitoba at 3% and Ontario and other provinces at 19% further demonstrate CWB’s growing geographical footprint.

Qualitative Drawbacks

Although there are multiple reasons to consider investing in CWB, there are drawbacks to consider as well. 

1. Slowing Dividend Growth
- Although CWB’s management does not specifically issue guidance regarding dividend growth, historically the dividend is raised by a penny each year, meaning the dividend growth percentages will decrease if the penny trend continues. Also of note is that the bank targets  a 30% payout dividend payout ratio. The fact that the payout ratio has currently grown to 44% will limit management’s ability to further grow the dividend in the short-term.  
2. High Reliance on Alberta & British Columbia to Drive Earnings Growth
With 72% of CWB’s loans associated with Alberta and BC, the bank relies on these two provinces to fuel future earnings growth. The profitability of business and mortgage loans in Alberta are somewhat dependent on the energy sector’s rebound. Although BC’s economy is more robust than that of its eastern neighbor, the sustained strength in the province’s housing market would help CWB realize profitable and growing mortgage loans in BC.
3. Earnings Volatility Given Relative Small Size of Bank
One of the reasons why investors of all stripes are attracted to Canada’s big five banks is the stability of their earnings. Their massive operations, exposure to different countries, and conservative lending practices have led to relative stable earnings growth. In contrast, the smaller scope of operations and less geographically diversified lending of CWB have led to more earnings volatility that will likely continue in the future.  
  
Conclusions

Most Canadian dividend growth investors have at least one bank in their investment portfolio. Although Canadian Western Bank is an attractive candidate to add to a portfolio given their  25 year streak of raising their dividend and resilience throughout business and economic cycles, I would caution that there will likely be a better time to add the company to your holdings. In order to provide an adequate margin of safety to an investor due to slowing dividend growth and more volatile earnings than its peers, it is worth waiting for a better entry point (P/E ~ 10-12X) before acquiring shares. 


Would you consider adding shares of Canadian Western Bank to your portfolio?

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Fortis Inc - 43 Years of Dividend Growth

After reviewing Canadian Utilities, which tops the list of companies on the Canadian Dividend All-Star list with an impressive dividend growth streak of 45 years, the next logical company to look at is Fortis Inc with their 43 year record of raising their payout. Similar to last time, my focus will remain mostly on the qualitative factors that make Fortis an interesting investment, as opposed to the quantitative characteristics which are the focus of many other dividend bloggers.

Company Overview

Fortis characterizes itself as a regulated, low risk and diversified utility company. With approximately 92% of 2015 earnings derived from regulated utilities, the bulk of the company's generated cashflows are indeed low risk. Although Fortis is based in Eastern Canada, their electric and gas regulated and non-regulated operations have customers in five Canadian provinces, nine US states and three Caribbean countries (Turks and Cacos, the Cayman Islands, and Belize).

Dividends

After announcing a 6.7% dividend increase in September 2016, the company's dividend yield is currently ~3.9%. The earnings payout ratio is moderate at 58% of the trailing 12-months EPS.  The 3, 5, and 10 year dividend growth rates are impressive at 7.1%, 5.6%, and 8.6% respectively. Fortis's management has issued guidance that they plan to grow their dividend by an average of 6% per year through 2021.
% annual average growth planned through 2021
Valuation

Fortis's share price was pretty consistent around $40 during 2016 leading to a trailing P/E of 22X. This value is at the higher end of the average P/E of 18-22X range for the past 5 years. Looking at EV/EBITA leads to a similar conclusion, with the company currently trading at 13X in contrast with their 5-year average in the 11-13X range.

Qualitative Catalysts

There are some obvious reasons why you would consider adding Fortis Inc to your investment portfolio

1. Stable Cashflows from Regulated Businesses
- With 92% of Fortis's 2015 earnings coming from regulated businesses and the company reporting that 96% of their assets generate regulated cashflows at Q316, the stable nature of the majority of the company's cashflow is a selling point for investors seeking a low volatility investment.
2. The Dividend Streak and Guidance
- As a dividend investor, you should seek out companies with management who are not only committed to sharing their profits with you, but who realize the importance of raising their payouts over time in-line with business results. With the second longest annual streak of dividend increases of any Canadian company and plans to continue to grow the dividend through 2021 at an average rate of 6%, management clearly puts the interests of income investors at the forefront.
3. Growing Geographical Diversification
- With its roots in  Eastern Canada, I assumed that the majority of company's assets would be based in the maritime provinces. However, I underestimated the growing geographical diversification the company has successfully undertaken in recent years. Only 5% of the company's assets relate to Eastern Canada, with the bulk of assets situated in the US (62%), followed by British Columbia (17%), and Alberta (9%).

Qualitative Drawbacks

Beyond the fact that the current valuation of the company's shares seems on the high end, there are some additional drawbacks for investors to consider before adding Canadian Utilities to their investment portfolio.

1. Regulatory Risk
- With 90%+ of Fortis's earnings depending on regulated business, there is a material risk that future regulatory decisions outside of the company's control could materially impact the company's operations and results. The election of Donald Trump as US President might have increased regulatory risk given Fortis's operations in nine US states and Mr. Trump's protectionist rhetoric during his electoral campaign.
2. Multiple Risks Associated with the Company's Strategy of Growth by Acquisitions 
- Integration Risk: Fortis ($16B market cap) faces integration risk relating to its recent $11B acquisition of ITC Transmission. The degree to which Fortis can successfully integrate ITC into their organization in a timely manner will be key in helping management meet their dividend growth projections in a responsible manner.
- Risk of Overpaying: Given the bull market in North America is long in the tooth, if Fortis continues to look to grow via acquisitions, they face an increasing risk of overpaying for target companies. Investors can gain some confidence in Fortis's management's historic record of paying fair prices for the companies they acquired.
- Dilution Risk: Investors should be cognizant of the fact that as Fortis continues to grow via acquisitions, their investment in shares of the company will be more diluted. Fortis will issue new shares in order to maintain their targeted capital structure.

Conclusions

Most Canadian dividend growth investors have at least one utility in their investment portfolio. Although it might be tempting to include Fortis in your portfolio due to their 43 year streak of raising their dividend and the 6% dividend growth guidance through 2021, I would caution that there will likely be a better time to add the company to your holdings. Given the relatively high current valuation, integration risks associated with the large ITC acquisition, and high regulatory risk, there are better companies to buy at the moment. However, I think Fortis could be an attractive investment at a lower valuation once they integrate ITC into their operations.

Would you consider adding shares of  Fortis Inc. to your portfolio?