Sage has certainly held its own on dividend, but without the good starting yield that would have made it really attractive.
But the general proposition that the past few years have been a bad-to-nightmarish time for corporate payouts is exaggerated. Looking at trackers to gauge the trend is misleading because they are weighted towards a few malefactors, notably the banks and REITs, which were contributing so much of UK plc's total dividend stream before 2009.
Private investors in search of reliable dividends can pick and choose among smaller companies, though not as small as all that. My database of about 150 companies-- basically the better and/or biggest payers-out in the Footsie and those jostling for promotion to the big board-- reveals that in 2009, the worst year of the corporate earnings and liquidity squeeze, 77 companies raised their dividends, 20 maintained them and 53 cut. Hardly an all-round massacre.
Only 45% of those which lifted payouts did so above inflation in 2009-- against 86% in 2008 when many were overdistributing-- but the proportion recovered to 56% in 2010 and 72% last year. It will be at least as high this year, as my monthly reports on the High Yield Share Strategies board show-- and almost all the bigger, final, dividend declarations payable in 2012 are already in the bag.
Further evidence that income was never crushed Great Depression-style comes from the performance of the 'basket of seven' investment trusts followed on the Investing for Income board: their portfolios are largely invested in the database's companies, and they continued to raise their own payouts in real terms all through the alleged slump with only a little dipping into reserves.
The RBS and Land Securities and Dixons type of faller has had too much publicity. Most big British firms saw the crunch coming and adapted more smartly than government or the consumer. They battened down the hatches, refinanced (sometimes with rights issues) and got their houses in order, attacking costs and overheads with vigour. Many were cosmopolitan enough in scope not to catch a chill when the British economy got pneumonia.
In short, there are plenty of Sages around, and always were.