Intel: Dividend Dynamo or Blowup?

Dividend investing is a tried-and-true strategy for generating strong, steady returns in economies both good and bad. But as corporate America's slew of dividend cuts and suspensions over the past few years has demonstrated, it's not enough simply to buy a high yield. You also need to make sure those payouts are sustainable.

Let's examine how Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) stacks up. In this series, we consider four critical factors investors should examine in every dividend stock. We'll then tie it all together to look at whether Intel is a dividend dynamo or a disaster in the making.

1. Yield
First and foremost, dividend investors like a large forward yield. But if a yield gets too high, it may reflect investors' doubts about the payout's sustainability. If investors had confidence in the stock, they'd be buying it, driving up the share price and shrinking the yield.

Intel yields a moderate 3.3%, quite a bit higher than the S&P 500 2.1%.

2. Payout ratio
The payout ratio might be the most important metric for judging dividend sustainability. It compares the amount of money a company paid out in dividends last year to the earnings it generated. A ratio that's too high -- say, greater than 80% of earnings -- indicates that the company may be stretching to make payouts it can't afford, even when its dividend yield doesn't seem particularly high.

Intel has a payout ratio of just 31%.

3. Balance sheet
The best dividend payers have the financial fortitude to fund growth and respond to whatever the economy and competitors throw at them. The interest coverage ratio indicates whether a company is having trouble meeting its interest payments -- any ratio less than 5 is a warning sign. Meanwhile, the debt-to-equity ratio is a good measure of a company's total debt burden.

Intel has a debt-to-equity ratio of 16% and negligible interest costs.

4. Growth
A large dividend is nice; a large growing dividend is even better. To support a growing dividend, we also want to see earnings growth.

Over the past five years, Intel has grown its earnings per share have grown 18% by while dividends have grown by 14%.

The Foolish bottom line
Intel exhibits a clean dividend bill of health. Its moderate yield appears affordable given the company's low payout ratio. There seems to be room for a rise in dividends, particularly if Intel continues to grow its earnings at these high rates. To stay up to speed Intel's progress, or that of any other stock, add it to your stock watchlist. If you don't have one yet, you can create a free, personalized watchlist of your favorite stocks.

Ilan Moscovitz doesn't own shares of any company mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter, where he goes by @TMFDada. The Motley Fool owns shares of Intel. The Fool owns shares of and has bought calls on Intel. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Intel. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On January 14, 2012, at 9:39 PM, Klippenstein wrote:

    Thanks for this, but it may not be as easy as you suggest for Intel to increase its dividend. Historically in addition to spending 1/3 of its earnings on dividends, it spends another 1/3 buying back the very stock it issues to employee's as a result of excessive stock option grants every year. That means it really needs to use 2/3 of its earnings for these two purposes or end up diluting sharehfolders earnings each year. Contrast that with Microsoft's of shareholder earnings and you get a much different picture. Microsoft,issues no stock options but "pays" employee's "stock awards" which are fully expensed over four year vesting period. If Intel did the same thing, its earnings would be 1/3 less ... so Microsoft earnings are a much more conservative number. I am not sure many people realize this ... but it is obvious from the fact that despite many years of major stock buy backs by intel (and most other technology companies), shares outstanding remain stubbornly high. In contrast, Microsoft share count has dropped from over 11 billion to just over 8 billion since since they stopped issuing options to employees.

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