Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Three Dividend Increases and One Cut

     If you're just starting a Canadian dividend portfolio, and you want to focus on one sector for the long-term, I'd recommend our financial industry. In particular, our big five chartered banks have been solid, if not spectacular performers over the past fifteen-plus years I've been investing in them.  Their strong lobby group (the Canadian Bankers Association), a favorable regulatory environment that limits foreign competition, and the banks' own conservative risk management policies have led to consistently growing profits and dividends. Over the last week, three banks I own announced dividend increases:
- Toronto-Dominion Bank (8.5% increase)
- Royal Bank of Canada (2.7% increase)
- Bank of Nova Scotia (3% increase)

     Sadly, it's not all sunshine, roses, and dividend increases in my portfolio. Despite posting record results for 2014, PHX Energy Services ("PHX"), cut their dividend in half in order to respond to falling oil prices. I chased yield in purchasing a half position in PHX last fall. I knew that the falling price of oil would impact the driller focused in Alberta, but thought the lower oil prices were only temporary. I've held onto my shares, as I'm underexposed to the oil sector, and even with a 50% lower dividend, the shares still yield around 6%. PHX's management has undertaken a number of measures to maintain their financial and operating flexibility such as increasing their bank revolver, cutting their dividend (even if it hurts investors like me, paying out more than 100% of profits is unsustainable), and reducing their CAPEX budget for 2015. I'm not sure what I'll end up doing with my shares, probably look to dispose of them over the next couple months if there's a more interesting opportunity that arises. 

     The dividend cut by PHX was my first dividend cut since Capstone Infrastructure cut their dividend in June 2012. There's many lessons to be learned, and I need to take some time to reflect and learn how to improve my investment process going forward. As sweet as the twelve dividend raises I've received this quarter feel, the one cut will continue to haunt me.


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