Perhaps you've never heard of Mondelez International (NASDAQ:MDLZ). But you probably know some of its best-known food brands: Cadbury, Toblerone, Oreo cookies, and Trident gum. Those four alone can make any child (or adult) happy.
"Wait, I though those brands were owned by Kraft (NASDAQ:KRFT)" you might say. And you would be correct: In October 2012, Mondelez and Kraft separated in order to create two separate entities, one with a domestic focus (Kraft) and the other focused abroad (Mondelez).
So how safe is this "new" company, and would it make a good addition to your dividend-paying portfolio? Read below to find out.
The most important metric for dividend investors
By far the most important metric for dividend investors to watch is free cash flow, or FCF. This represents the actual amount of money a company brings in during the year, minus capital expenditures.
There are no accounting gimmicks here. Free cash flow tells you clearly what's in the bank, and it's also the source of a company's dividend.
Mondelez doesn't have much history as a stand-alone company. But since October 2012, here's what its free cash flow and dividend situation looks like.
Basically, there's only one solid conclusion to draw from this: Mondelez has a very safe dividend. Currently, the company pays out $0.60 per share per year -- which equates to a 1.8% yield at today's prices. That's a pretty low number that might not get investors too excited.
But there's no doubt that this will rise in the not-too-distant future. That's because Mondelez is only using 21% of its FCF on dividends. Most international stalwarts -- think McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) or Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO) -- can safely pay about 70%-80% of their FCF for those payouts. Although Mondelez might not be in those companies' league, you can see that if it was, it could quadruple its payout overnight.
Of course, that's not going to happen, but it doesn't need to for Mondelez investors to be happy. Over the years, even if free cash flow stays the same, the company could easily raise its payout to cover 50% of FCF -- and sharholders' dividend payout would more than double!
But what about the strength of the business?
Knowing what we do about the strength of Mondelez's dividend, it's important to look at the company itself as well. I think it's most instructive to look at where -- geographically -- Mondelez gets most of its revenue.
Virtually none of these reporting segments have grown since 2011, with the exception of North America. The 41% of company revenue coming from Europe gives the continent an outsized effect on overall sales.
If we dig a little deeper, we see that a lot of the weaknesses in Mondelez's sales come from its chocolate products. Over the last six months alone, sales of chocolate in Latin America, the Asia-Pacific, EEMEA, and North America are down 10%, 8%, 9% and 14%, respectively.
A lot of this is because demand for cocoa -- the necessary ingredient for chocolate -- has gone up significantly. That means prices for the commodity have risen, and Mondelez has been forced to raise the price of its Cadbury chocolates and Oreo cookies. Customers have balked at those higher prices, pushing down sales levels.
There's still a lot for dividend investors to like about Mondelez. The payout will likely rise in the near future, but the stock price might not. Trading at 21 times earnings, the company is pretty expensive when you consider its stagnant revenue growth. Interested investors might want to buy a starter position and add to it at better value points in the future.
Brian Stoffel has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Coca-Cola and McDonald's. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2016 $37 calls on Coca-Cola and short January 2016 $37 puts on Coca-Cola. 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.