This Buffett Technique Will Increase Your Dividends

LONDON -- Billionaire investor Warren Buffett is well-known for his focus on companies with strong earnings that pay good dividends. At the same time, he doesn't care much about share prices -- except when he's buying.

Buffett's investment style is as far as away as you can get from the aggressive, heavy-trading approach pioneered by hedge funds -- but his returns are far more consistent and much easier for investors like you and I to replicate.

Here's the secret.

Buffet's 50% yield
One of Buffett's most famous long-term holdings is his 8.9% stake in The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO  ) . The $15 billion shareholding is the largest holding of Buffett's company, Berkshire Hathaway, and most of it dates back to 1988, when Berkshire spent $1 billion to acquire a 6.2% stake at an approximate cost, adjusted for splits and dividends, of $3.75 per share.

Back in 1988, Coke shares offered a yield of 4% -- decent, but not remarkable. Since then, the company has maintained its 50-year unbroken record of annual dividend increases. The result is that in 2011, the dividend payout was $1.88, providing Buffett with a massive 50% yield on his original investment.

Yield on cost
Despite its golden record of annual dividend increases, Coca-Cola is not necessarily thought of as a high-yielding stock: At current prices, it only yields around 3.1%.

This 50% is Buffett's "yield on cost" -- the dividend yield on the price he originally paid. This is one the key benefits of holding shares in big companies over long periods, as I'll demonstrate below. By simply maintaining his holding in a quality company, Buffett has seen the yield on his shares rise continuously to provide an amazing 50% annual return on his original investment.

A British Coca-Cola?
Over the last six years, Buffett has spent more than 1 billion building up a 5.1% stake in one of Britain's best-known brands -- a company with a 28-year unbroken record of dividend increases. I'm pretty sure he likes this company for just the same reasons he liked Coca-Cola all those years ago -- and you can find out the name of the company and the price he paid in this free report.

You can do it, too
The good news is that you don't have to wait 24 years to see big yield-on-cost increases in your portfolio.

In the table below, I've taken a look at nine popular FTSE 100 shares to see what their yield on cost would be today if you'd bought them just ten years ago, in May 2002. I think the results speak for themselves:

Company

May 2002
Share Price (pence)

2002 Yield
on Cost

2011 Yield
on Cost

British American Tobacco

793

1.4%

15%

SSE

679

4.8%

11%

Vodafone  (Nasdaq: VOD  )

118

1.3%

7.5%

Tesco (OTC: TSCDY)

246

2.5%

6%

Unilever  (NYSE: UL  )

1,396

1.5%

5.6%

BAE Systems

371*

2.5%

5.1%

Diageo

856

2.8%

4.7%

GlaxoSmithKline  (NYSE: GSK  )

1,477*

2.7%

4.7%

HSBC

830*

4%

3.1%

Average yield:  

2.61%

6.97%

Source: Morningstar; company websites. *Share price is currently lower than it was in 2002. Despite this, in two of three cases, shares still offer a yield on cost that is better than it was 10 years ago. What's more, a Foolish investor would have used the falling share price as an opportunity to buy more and average down, thus improving their yield on cost still further.

Standout performer British American Tobacco has become a truly outstanding income share, thanks to a combination of share-price growth and dividend increases. In second place is one of the most popular utilities with private investors, SSE, which also has an impressive record on the dividend front.

Annuity crunching
According to the "Annuity Best Buy Table" in today's Financial Times, a male aged 65 with a 100,000 pound lump sum can get a level annuity income (i.e., not inflation-linked) of 5,971 pounds -- effectively a 5.9% yield on your capital sum.

Throw in a 3% annual rise to protect you from inflation, and that drops to 4,131 pounds -- or 4.1%. Remember, this is for an annuity, so you lose your lump sum in return for your annual income.

Compared to this, I reckon our high-yield-on-cost dividend portfolio is far superior:

  • 6.97% yield.
  • You keep your capital.
  • If your shares are in an ISA, you won't pay income tax on the dividends.
  • Over time, your dividends will tend to stay ahead of inflation.

Of course, a portfolio like this is riskier than an annuity, as some of the companies in it could go through troubled times -- think about Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland, for example. However, the longer you hold your shares, the more your yield on cost will improve, reducing the impact if one company goes pear-shaped.

Keep it simple
The best part of this approach is that assembling a high-yielding portfolio that will show yield on cost improvements over the next couple of decades is really simple.

All you need to do is choose a diversified mixture of big-cap shares from different sectors (I'd stick to the FTSE 100), stick them in an ISA or SIPP, and wait. Many FTSE 100 companies look an excellent value at the moment, and there really is no time like the present.

Finally, don't forget to check out that free report I mentioned about Warren Buffett's favorite UK share. I found it really useful, and I think you might still be able to buy shares at the same price he paid, so it's worth a look.

Searching for dependable FTSE dividend shares? This free Motley Fool report -- "8 Shares Held By Britain's Super Investor" -- reveals the major companies favored by high-yield legend Neil Woodford.

Further investment opportunities:

Roland owns shares in Vodafone, Tesco, Unilever, BAE Systems, GlaxoSmithKline, and HSBC. He does not own any of the other shares mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Tesco and Coca-Cola Company Common. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Tesco, Unilever, Coca-Cola Company Common, and Diageo. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On June 12, 2012, at 7:43 PM, bossman5000 wrote:

    Picking a bunch of stocks from the UK doesn't seem wise. More diversification would be advisable.

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