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Waste Management's 10% Dividend Boost Lights a Fire Under the Stock Price

By Motley Fool Staff - Dec 20, 2017 at 5:17PM

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Shares hit an all-time high Friday.

In this segment of the Motley Fool Money podcast, host Chris Hill, Million Dollar Portfolio's Jason Moser and Matt Argersinger, and Total Income's Ron Gross dig around a bit in Waste Management's (WM 1.75%) numbers to find what makes it such a strong company and a profitable investment. One clue: the big disparity between its top line growth and its EPS growth.

A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on Dec. 15, 2017.

Chris Hill: Shares of Waste Management hit an all-time high on Friday after the company announced it would increase its quarterly dividend nearly 10%. Jason, Waste Management is one of those companies that's easy to miss because it really isn't the sexiest business in the world.

Jason Moser: Oh, come on, cue the sexy music, man. This is trash collection. There's nothing like getting that stuff out on the curb on a nice morning and coming back and knowing that it's not there anymore. Listen, at first glance, you look at this company and you look at the top line growth they're bringing in, and you think, why would I consider investing in this? Five years, it's about 1% annualized. But then you look at the bottom line, and they're obviously doing something right, because it's growing at about 10% annualized on the earnings per share number. And I think it's because of a few things. It's a model that spits out a lot of cash. And that cash can be used to pay a dividend, which they do, it can be used to buy back shares, which they do. This is a very heavily regulated industry. There's tough barriers to entry not only on the regulation side but on the economics side as well. Shares are yielding $1.86 per share now, which is better than 2%. This is the 15th consecutive paraphrasing that dividend. I have a feeling they're gunning for 25. They want to be one of those dividend aristocrats. And trash is an extremely reliable market. It's happening like the sun comes up. I think, if you're looking for an income-style play, this is a stock you always have to have on your watch list.

Ron Gross: I completely agree from an income perspective. I wonder what a company like that could do to increase those margins, though. Like you said, top line not so impressive. Bottom line better. Fuel comes to mind, I could see, although that'll be a cyclical up and down thing. I wonder how else they can squeeze additional dollars on the bottom line from the top.

Moser: Depending on the regulation side, it's a matter of how much pricing power they can exert over time. But I don't know if that's fully under their control.

Hill: Is it safe to assume that if corporate taxes are cut, that greatly increases the chances they keep their dividend streak going?

Moser: Oh, I think that's for sure. A tax cut is probably going to result in a lot of these companies buying back a lot of their shares, too, which probably won't be too bad of a thing, though I'm sure some companies will figure out a way to screw it up.

Hill: We'll see if Adobe does that with their stock at 40X forward earnings.

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Waste Management, Inc. Stock Quote
Waste Management, Inc.
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