Time to turn on your global dividend finder

Global energy, conglomerates and legacy technology companies are among the companies that investors could consider as they begin the search to replace high-yielding domestic stocks.

With experts urging investors to use the prospect of losing their franking credit refunds under Labor to address overweight exposures to domestic equities, the time is right to delve deeper into some of the better known companies that can deliver regular and reliable dividend payments.

Plato Investment Management deputy portfolio manager Daniel Pennell said Australian investors and retirees who had large holdings of Telstra and the big four banks would do well to look further afield for sources of income.

“Investors should be wary of this concentration as there are many other good companies that offer both consistent dividend income and better potential for capital growth globally,” Mr Pennell said.

US shares are often shunned by Australian investors seeking income because it is a low yielding market. The S&P 500 offers a dividend yield of 2 per cent compared with 4.5 per cent from the S&P/ASX 200 (before franking credits).

Dig deeper for high yield

But this ignores the composition of dividend payers with only 55 per cent of S&P 500 constituents paying a dividend compared with 85 per cent of the top 200 Australian companies. Fewer companies paying dividends brings down the market’s average dividend payment.

Plato’s Mr Pennell said 70 per cent of US companies that pay a dividend increased their dividend in 2018, while 5 per cent cut their dividend. One of the sectors to increase its dividend payouts was information technology, where dividends paid out rose 33 per cent.

“This was driven by names, including Broadcom, where the dividend rose 51 per cent and Visa, where the dividend rose 31 per cent,” Mr Pennell said.

Mature technology companies with established product lines and cash flows are often also reliable dividend payers.

A screen of US stocks paying decent dividends shows data storage company Seagate paying a yield of 5.6 per cent, printing and copier company Xerox paying 5.2 per cent and GPS technology company Garmin paying 2.6 per cent.

Multi-nationals such as the UK-listed pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline also score well with a yield of 5.2 per cent as does US domiciled consumer staples company Proctor & Gamble.

Global energy companies also rate highly with Exxon Mobile yielding 4.2 per cent and the Italian power firm Enel SpA yielding 4.9 per cent.

To distribute, or not

While some investment experts criticise companies that pay higher dividends as showing signs of being a business with poor long-term growth prospects, others are less certain.

AMP Capital’s head of investment strategy and chief economist Shane Oliver is among those who believe that higher dividend payments from companies is often a good sign.

Dr Oliver said data from the US share market showed that higher dividend payments lead to higher earnings growth, which in turn drives higher overall returns.

“When companies retain a high proportion of earnings there is a tendency for poor hubris-driven investments; high dividend payouts are indicative of corporate confidence about future earnings; and high payouts indicate earnings are real,” he said in a note to clients published on Wednesday.

Dr Oliver said since 1900 more than half the total return of 11.7 per cent per annum from Australian equities has been from dividends, further underscoring the reasons why Australian investors are fond of them.

He rejected arguments put forward by some that dividend imputation creates a bias to invest in domestic equities and unfairly benefits the rich.
“This is all nonsensical as dividend imputation simply corrects a bias by removing the double taxation of company earnings,” Dr Oliver said.

He added that if the Labor policy was part of a broader winding back of franking credits, investors would have even more reason to be concerned.

Written by James Frost

This article was originally published in The Australian Financial Review. 

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