As an inflation hedge, there are few assets better than gold -- the precious metal often performs well when the strength of the dollar is called into question. But gold has some significant limitations. Most notably, it offers virtually no productivity.
Once owned, gold just sits there -- maintaining its value perhaps, but creating no additional wealth. Shares of a successful company, in contrast, can entitle one to a steady stream of dividend payments. These payments can line the pockets of investors, or finance the purchase of additional shares.
There is, however, a way to combine these two concepts: dividend-paying gold stocks. With gold in a sustained bear market (the price of the precious metal has fallen about 30% in the past three years), dividend paying gold stocks are quite rare nowadays. Yet a few still exist. Given the recent trends in the price of gold, none should be considered safe, but they offer gold investors a unique combination of income and exposure to the precious metal.
Sibanye Gold yields around 6%
Among pure play gold miners, Sibanye Gold (NYSE: SBGL) has the largest dividend in the industry. At its current price, it yields around 6%, which is relatively high for just about any sector.
Sibanye Gold's management defines its dividend as a key element of its philosophy, and has promised to commit 25%-35% of its normalized earnings as dividends for the foreseeable future. Thankfully, Sibanye remains profitable even in the face of declining gold prices.
But Sibanye only has about $45 million of cash on its books, and both its earnings and gold production have been declining in recent quarters, in contrast to other gold miners. Sibanye's cash flow has also been under pressure. In the second half of 2014, Sibanye generated $140 million in cash flow from operating activies, down 47% from the same period last year. Part of the reason why Sibanye's dividend yield looks so good is that its share price has tumbled -- it's down over 30% in the last three months alone. Sibanye operates in South Africa, a country rich in gold reserves, but with a recent history of labor issues. Labor issues have proven to a be a problem for other gold miners in the region, and it could weigh on Sibanye in the future.
Goldcorp's dividend is near 3.40%
Goldcorp's (NYSE: GG) dividend looks downright paltry when compared to firms in other industries -- energy, utility, or telecom investors would sneer at the prospect of labeling a 3% dividend "high" -- but as it stands, it's currently the third highest paying dividend gold stock.
Goldcorp is one of the largest pure play gold miners in the world, and one of the most reliable firms in the industry. All of its mines are located in the Western Hemisphere, many in Canada. Goldcorp has some of the lowest costs in the industry -- last quarter, it cost Goldcorp about $885 to mine an ounce of gold on an all-in sustaining cost basis. Meanwhile, its total gold production rose to 724,800 ounces, compared to just 679,900 ounces in the same quarter last year.
But Goldcorp has its fair share of problems, and it could be forced to cut its dividend in the future if the price of gold continues to fall. Goldcorp has around $363 million in cash on its balance sheet, but almost $3.7 billion worth of debt, up from basically nothing in 2009. Goldcorp's adjusted operating cash flows have remained healthy -- $366 million last quarter, up from $281 million in the same quarter of 2014 -- but large capital expenditures have taken a toll on the company's cash flow. Last quarter, Goldcorp's free cash flow was negative $360 million. Goldcorp's management expects that it will be able to generate free cash flow for the next five years, but that's only if current gold prices hold.
If gold prices rebound, Goldcorp should be able to keep its dividend, and even increase it, but further declines in the price of the yellow metal could take a toll on the company and its ability to keep paying shareholders.