With stock buybacks all the rage, dividend investors in S&P 500 companies aren't always getting the rewards they deserve from their stocks. It pays to take notice when companies make healthy payouts. But just as Santa has a naughty or nice list, so do I.
Last week, I detailed seven companies that have gone above and beyond their fiduciary responsibility to reward shareholders with a healthy and growing dividend. But every coin has two sides, and even the S&P 500 has lumps of coal mixed in with the bars of gold. Today, I propose we take a look at two companies that went out with a thud in the second quarter and see whether their lowered quarterly payout is a short-term anomaly or a genuine cause for concern.
Hudson City Bancorp
Hudson City isn't a fan of doing what others do. When the housing market was collapsing and banks were losing money hand-over-fist in 2008, it was busy raising its dividend and inching its revenue higher. Based predominantly in the Northeast and being a prudent lender, the company was able to resist the trend of rising foreclosures and falling home prices until recently. Yet now that many of its larger peers, including JPMorgan Chase
A recent balance sheet restructuring removed a significant portion of Hudson City's debt, but it also came with a large quarterly loss and a 47% reduction in its quarterly payout. Hudson City once paid out nearly a 6% yield, and although its current yield of 3.9% is still a handsome payout, a longer-than-expected period of low interest rates is squashing the performance of the company's investment portfolio and capping its income potential. One bright spot: Loan-loss reserves dropped.
I don't think Hudson City is out of the woods yet, and it's likely the company's prospects won't improve until interest rates begin their ascent. Even with a dividend approaching 4%, the company's double-digit revenue dive this year is a red flag that investors would be wise to pay attention to.
Ormat Technologies isn't your run-of-the-mill electric utility. In fact, the company's business is downright exciting. Ormat operates in the geothermal and recovered energy business, operating power plants and supplying products to geothermal and recovered energy plants worldwide. Unfortunately for investors, new technologies, no matter how cool they may sound, rarely translate into instant results.
Ormat hasn't had any problem generating a profit of late, but shareholders have to be feeling shafted after seeing their quarterly payout fall yet again this past quarter down to $0.04. Keep in mind that just five quarters ago Ormat paid out a quarterly distribution of $0.12, which has to leave investors wondering, "What gives?"
Ormat expected part of the dividend decline, as it said when it made that $0.12 payment that future quarters would see the payout drop to $0.05. But still, the additional drop is cause for concern, especially given that Ormat isn't a great value on paper when compared to more traditional utility companies Duke Energy
Not all dividend reductions are cause for alarm, but for shareholders they're rarely a welcome sight. Digging deeper can usually offer a better understanding of why a company reduced its dividend in the first place, and familiarizing yourself with its payment history can help determine if this is a statistical anomaly or a potentially bearish trend.
Would you consider Hudson City Bancorp or Ormat Technologies a dividend play to buy after their second-quarter payouts? Share your ideas in the comments section below and consider adding Hudson City and Ormat Technologies to your watchlist to keep up on the latest news from each stocks' respective sector.
Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong. The Motley Fool owns shares of JPMorgan Chase. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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 that always tries to raise the bar every quarter.