With zero interest rates and may companies cutting their dividends left and right amid COVID-19, where is one to turn for large and sustainable payouts? While the payouts in beaten-down entertainment, travel, or energy-related stocks are tempting, these payouts may also be some of the most-at-risk of being cut. While consumer staples stocks also look like a good source of payouts, many such stocks have been bid up to rather expensive levels, and their dividend yields have shrunk.
On the other hand, the technology sector has held up fairly well amid COVID-19 thus so far. That's not surprising, as the peculiar nature of the stay-at-home economy may actually sustain or even boost the fortunes of certain tech stocks that play into the new digital economy.
Here are three technology stalwarts that also pay hefty (and growing) payouts to boot.
Broadcom: 4.1% yield
Broadcom (AVGO -0.65%) is a large semiconductor conglomerate, with a diversified portfolio that caters to many of the big tech mega-trends today: 5G, data centers, and automation. After the megamerger between Broadcom and Avago in 2016, Broadcom has more recently diversified into software, with the acquisitions of CA technologies in 2018 and Symantec in 2019.
While the company has racked up some debt amid all of these acquisitions, the assets Broadcom has acquired are very cash-flowing, justifying the company's continued payout, which now yields 4.1%. In the last quarter, which ended at the beginning of May, spanning two months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Broadcom managed to grow revenue 4%, as semiconductor revenue fell 2% and software revenue grew 21%. Free cash flow totaled $3.1 billion, which handily covered the dividend payout of $1.3 billion.
While Broadcom's P/E multiple based on GAAP earnings looks high, at 56 times GAAP earnngs, its cash flow is far above its GAAP net income, as the company amortizes a lot of non-cash acquisition-related intangible assets. Broadcom also increased its cash position from $6.4 billion to $9.2 billion during the quarter, against roughly $46 billion in debt.
Despite the overhang of the COVID-19 recession, Broadcom guided essentially to a flat revenue and adjusted EBITDA in the next quarter, as the booming cloud and telecom sectors offset weakness in mobile phone handsets.
Broadcom's diversification, not only across many different types of semiconductors but also with a significant minority of revenue coming from software, should ensure stable results amid these turbulent times, keeping its high payout intact and flowing to yield-hungry shareholders.
Texas Instruments: 2.6% yield
Another highly diversified chipmaker with a safe dividend is Texas Instruments (TXN -1.05%). TI is the largest producer of analog and embedded chips that go into a wide variety of devices across just about every sector of technology. Yield-seeking investors should also appreciate TI's longevity; it's a 90-year old tech company that has stood the test of time due to its highly evolved capital allocation policies.
Investors are receiving the fruits of the those policies now, which has resulted in very low-cost manufacturing that provides chips in high volume at low cost, all while still being highly profitable for TI. In fact, in the its recent quarter reported just on July 21, Texas Instruments reported a 42% free cash flow margin as a percentage of revenue over the past 12 months -- and those 12 months weren't exactly "strong," as the latter half of 2019 was colored by the U.S.-China trade war, and the beginning of 2020 brought on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moreover, TI's largest end markets of industrial and automotive chips have seen big declines during this time, making the company's cash flow profile all the more impressive. Yet while automotive and industrial seem like the wrong bets now, management is confident in its long-term strategy, as both automotive vehicles and factories are going to become "smarter" over time, with more and more semiconductor content.
While TI's revenue is currently experiencing year-over-year declines, management noted that its portfolio outside of automotive experienced sequential growth over the first quarter, and also guided for sequential revenue growth next quarter.
Meanwhile, the company's ability to keep costs in check and turn down capital expenditures makes its dividend very safe. Currently, the dividend amounts to just 56% of free cash flow over the past 12 months. And if a 2.6% dividend doesn't excite you that much, consider that TI has raised that payout each year for the past 16 years, increasing the payout fortyfold over 2004 levels.
International Business Machines: 5.21% yield
Management of International Business Machines (IBM 0.82%) was so confident in its resiliency amid the coronavirus that it actually raised its dividend by a penny back in April. The modest bump was the 25th consecutive year of dividend increases for Big Blue, which is now firmly a value stock in the tech space.
IBM's business has been challenged in recent years, as a good amount of its high-touch enterprise IT business has been disrupted by the cloud computing revolution. Still, IBM still generates significant cash flow, and last year's acquisition of Red Hat gives the company a solidly growing software business that should help put a floor under revenue for the foreseeable future. Despite a very challenging environment, IBM's recent Q2 results, while showing a 5.4% revenue decline, came in ahead of analyst expectations, as did adjusted (non-GAAP) earnings per share. While certain segments felt some pain from an IT spending slowdown, underneath those headline results, the new growth segment of cloud and data platforms surged 30%, as companies looked to speed up their digital transformations.
About 60% of IBM's business comes from recurring revenue streams, and last quarter IBM's free cash flow came in 46% higher than its reported net income. Though free cash flow during the first half of 2020 is, understandably, down about 10% from the first half of last year, the last six months' free cash flow of $3.6 billion still covered IBM's dividend payout of $2.9 billion over that time period.
IBM still faces challenges, but with a dividend over 5%, a PE ratio of just 12.5, and new CEO Arvind Krishna just recently having taken the reins to pursue a hybrid cloud strategy, IBM appears to be a solid dividend stock, with the potential for upside should Krishna's turnaround efforts bear fruit.