Home-improvement giant Home Depot (HD 0.73%) has seen its stock perform strongly in 2015, handily outpacing rival Lowe's (LOW 0.41%) and enjoying continued dominance in the home-retail industry. Even though the share-price performance has been good news in itself, Home Depot has also seen other positives help it become more successful over the past year. Let's take a closer look at some of the best headlines that Home Depot gave investors in 2015.
Home Depot boosts dividend, announces huge stock buyback
Home Depot has done a good job over the year of rewarding shareholders as it has grown, and 2015 was no exception. In February, the company said that it would boost its dividend by 26%, paying $0.59 per share every quarter. The move marked the sixth straight year that Home Depot had raised its payout, and it pushed the retailer's yield up above the 2% mark briefly.
In addition to the dividend increase, Home Depot also announced a massive $18 billion stock buyback program. Representing more than 10% of its current market capitalization, the latest authorization continues a long history of share repurchases, with Home Depot having spent more than $53 billion to buy back 1.2 billion shares since 2002.
Home Depot said as part of the announcement that it would aim toward returning 50% of its earnings to shareholders through dividends and that it expected to go through the $18 billion buyback authorization by the end of fiscal 2017. With the added goal of keeping returns on invested capital rising, Home Depot has given back to shareholders in just about every way it can.
Home Depot acquires Interline Brands
In August, Home Depot completed its $1.625 billion acquisition of Interline Brands. As a leading national distributor and direct marketer of broad-line maintenance, repair, and operations products, Interline appealed to Home Depot in its efforts to cater to its growing customer base of professional contractors. As Home Depot CEO Craig Menear said, "By joining forces with Interline, we'll be able to better serve our Pro customers whether in-store, online, or at their place of business."
With more than 90 locations in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico, Interline has a particularly strong presence in the multi-family housing, institutional, and residential markets. Part of Home Depot's recent success has come from its efforts to beat rival Lowe's in serving professionals in the industry, and the Interline acquisition should help Home Depot do a better job of topping Lowe's and sustaining its competitive advantages.
Strategic vision becomes clearer
Most importantly, Home Depot gave a broader vision of its long-term strategy in a presentation to investors in December. Menear noted how Home Depot has focused in 2015 on restructuring its strategic planning process, looking at potential disruptors in its business, looking for long-term sales growth, and boosting productivity.
Home Depot will continue to concentrate on three key areas of its business in order to find future success. First, the company prides itself on its customer service, and it has broadened its view toward its customers to aim to give them a positive experience beyond mere service. With attention to digital innovation, Home Depot has allowed its customers to make purchases in whichever way they prefer, and it expects to keep finding ways to connect customers to the resources they need in order to feel good about their experience.
Second, Home Depot holds itself out as the authority on products for all of its customers. Professional contractors have different needs than do-it-yourself customers, but the retailer has built up its expertise in working with both groups. Moreover, Home Depot has developed a solid reputation for customers looking for the retailer itself to handle their home-improvement needs, and that's an area with huge growth potential in the future.
Last, Home Depot is working to boost productivity. With initiatives to keep costs as low as possible while still giving its employees the ability to serve their customers well, Home Depot sees itself being able to tap into the huge growth potential of the professional and do-it-yourself markets for years to come.
2015 was a great year for Home Depot, but these headlines make it clear that the company has more ambitious plans for the future. Investors can look forward to more good times both in 2016 and in future years as well.