We're swinging into the hotter months of the year, but the higher temperatures don't seem to be slowing down the dividend raisers. A handful of companies lifted their distributions last week, some on the back of solid results and some perhaps more in keeping with tradition.
I've selected the usual three-pack of raisers for this update. The envelope, please:
1. Lowe's (NYSE:LOW)
This building supplies specialist is a dividend aristocrat, one of the few and proud companies that has lifted its quarterly distribution at least once annually for a minimum of 25 consecutive years running. 2015's raise is one of the meatier ones; the new $0.28 per share rate is 22% higher than its predecessor.
The company has the space for that kind of generosity. It's been growing sales and profits lately, with the former advancing by 5% on a year-over-year basis (to just over $14 billion) and the latter by 8% (to $673 million) in Q1. Although these rates are a bit lower than analysts had forecast, they still represent growth.
Driving much of this is the recovery in the housing market, which Lowe's clearly believes will continue. The retailer has forecast that it will post annual sales growth of 4.5% to 5% in 2015, with diluted earnings per share coming in at $3.29 compared to 2014's $2.71.
Assuming the housing market doesn't slow down to any serious extent over the next six months, those projections look realistic to me. Also, thanks to a boost in operating cash flow, the firm's free cash flow ballooned in Q1 to over 10 times its total dividend payout. I think, then, it's safe to assume that Lowe's will maintain its aristocrat status going forward.
The new dividend is to be paid on August 5 to shareholders of record as of July 22.
2. Tiffany & Co. (NYSE:TIF)
The famous high-end jewelry retailer isn't quite a dividend aristocrat, but as a longtime and consistent payer of quarterly distributions it comes close. In the latest of a series of raises over the years, Tiffany & Co. has bumped its dividend 5% higher to $0.40 per share.
The company's brand recognition is high enough to bring in customers all over the globe, and as a result it draws much of its revenue from international markets. These have been choppy lately, even considering the recent strength of the U.S. dollar.
Q1's constant-currency sales in Europe, for example, were 21% higher on a year-over-year basis, while the Japan market saw a 18% decline. But all in all, economic insecurity has risen throughout the world, affecting sales of luxury goods. For the quarter, Tiffany's total net sales in dollar terms declined by 5% on a year-over-year basis to $962 million during the quarter, while net profit fell 17% to $105 million.
Improving economies and a bigger footprint will hopefully stem those declines in the near future; the company's plan to open 12-15 stores this year (adding to the current tally of 298) should help in this effort. Meanwhile, free cash flow is well in positive territory, and more than enough to cover the firm's payout. I'd bet on Tiffany keeping its dividend raise streak alive, then.
The company's upcoming distribution is to be distributed on July 10 to stockholders of record as of June 22.
3. Bank of Montreal (NYSE:BMO)
U.S. banks aren't the only ones on this continent increasing dividends; several north of the border are getting in on the action too. One is Bank of Montreal, which last week incrementally lifted its payout by 2% to C$0.82 (nearly $0.66) per share.
The bank (which, to be fair, has a fairly strong presence on the U.S. market) has been a solid, high-margin performer lately. This is because it reported higher carried balances and a rise in noninterest income in its core personal and commercial banking segment. Meanwhile, it significantly lifted results in other areas, particularly the lucrative wealth management niche.
All told, adjusted net profit rose by 5% to C$1.1 billion ($883 million) on a year-over-year basis in the bank's Q2. Revenue increased 11% to C$4.5 billion ($3.6 billion).
Going forward, the company might face some headwinds in its Canadian lending activity, as weaker prices for commodities (oil, in particular) impact the borrowing power of larger domestic companies. But the bank has been here before -- it's been in business for almost 200 years -- and is well-diversified in terms of clientele, revenue sources, and geography. I wouldn't worry much about the viability of its new payout.
Bank of Montreal will hand this out on August 26 to shareholders of record as of Aug. 2.