Welcome to earnings season. Alcoa, the company that unofficially starts each quarter's earnings cascade, has reported its latest quarter. In its wake, we'll be seeing a lot of corporate results making the headlines in the coming days and weeks.
Many companies declare dividends either with or shortly before their results, so we should expect plenty of news on payouts in the immediate future.
There were more than a few raises last week, in the days before the Q2 kickoff. Three notable firms lifting their payouts were:
PNC Financial Services (NYSE:PNC)
One of the nation's largest regional banking groups, PNC has been fairly aggressive in boosting its dividend following last decade's financial crisis. In the most recent of a series of hikes, the lender has increased its payout by 6% to $0.51 per share.
As with its fellow big banks in the post-crisis era, any of PNC's capital allocation plans -- especially dividends -- must be approved by the Federal Reserve. With its good performance in the latest round of the Fed's stress tests, PNC had no problem getting its proposals waved through.
Although it's apparently well-protected against future crises (this is what the stress tests ascertain), due largely to persistently low interest rates it didn't grow much last year; for fiscal 2014 both total revenue and net profit saw modest declines. Net interest income was down by 7% on the year.
Leaving out the up-in-the-air possibility of a Fed rate hike, in the immediate future the bank should be able to grow by pruning its operations. A cost-reduction program currently under way already seems to be having some positive effects, with non-interest expenses seeing a slight year-over-year drop of 2% in 2014.
In spite of PNC's recent lack of growth, it's still well in the black and its business throws off more than enough cash to finance its dividend. All told, distributions cost it around $1.2 billion last year, while the bank's free cash flow was nearly $5.6 billion. I think its dividend is not only secure, it's got plenty of room for growth ... assuming the Fed continues to agree.
PNC's upcoming payout is to be dispensed on May 5 to shareholders of record as of April 15.
Tanger Factory Outlet Centers (NYSE:SKT)
This specialty real estate investment trust isn't quite a dividend aristocrat -- one of the small, elite group of stocks that's raised its distribution at least once annually for a minimum of 25 years running.
But it comes close; with a 19% lift announced in its quarterly payout last week (to just under $0.29 per share), it's now hit the 22 year mark.
Tanger is the company that basically invented the outlet mall, that outpost of cut-price name brands. The REIT currently operates and owns or co-owns a portfolio of 24 such properties, stuffed with well-known tenants, across the U.S. and in Canada.
A set of new developments and expansion projects helped lift results in 2014, with adjusted funds from operations (a key measure of profitability for REITs) climbing 5% to almost $195 million. Tenants obviously like Tanger as a landlord; occupancy for the year was 98%.
I can't imagine this trend turning south for the company, as long as the economy stays reasonably healthy and Americans continue to indulge their fetish for bargains. The REIT has four projects in development that are slated to open this year; tenant demand and foot traffic should be high in all.
As a result, I'd expect the company to grow its revenue and profits and, by extension, continue to improve the dividend in the foreseeable future.
Tanger's new distribution is to be handed out on May 15 to shareholders of record as of April 30.
The TJX Companies (NYSE:TJX)
Last week's winner of the Highest Dividend Raise sweepstakes among our selections is this clothing retail conglomerate. The operator of well-trafficked discount chains T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, in addition to other brands, it boosted its quarterly payout by 20% to $0.21.
Like Tanger, its retail cousin, TJX likes to add to its distribution. It's now done so for nearly 20 years in a row, on the back of almost consistently positive bottom line results.
The company was comfortably in the black in its fiscal 2015, at least by the standards of the high-competition/low-margin discount retail segment it operates in. Top line advanced by 6% in fiscal 2015 to $29 billion, with net profit rising 4% to $2.2 billion.
TJX attributed these improvements to an increase in foot traffic at its stores. What helped was that there were more of them; a total of almost 3,400 at the end of the fiscal year, compared to fiscal 2014's 3,219.
Going forward, the company has every intention of expanding that presence. It'll be entering its seventh international market this year when it opens an outlet in Austria; an eighth is planned in the near future for the Netherlands. All told, TJX is anticipating annual EPS growth of anywhere from 1% to 3% for fiscal 2016.
Those aren't big numbers, but they're enough to keep the profit train rolling. Meanwhile, TJX is a company that lives well within its means as far as dividend is concerned; free cash flow is usually far higher than what the firm pays out in distributions. So I think its dividend is safe for now.
TJX's upcoming distribution will be paid on June 4 to stockholders of record as of May 14.
Eric Volkman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of PNC Financial Services. 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.