Why I’m Buying Into The Special Dividend At ITV plc and Avoiding The Dividend Cut at Barclays plc

As results season starts to slow, I find that I now have more time to be able to circle back to have a proper read through the results and watch the presentations of companies whose shares I don’t own, but that interest me enough to do a bit more digging.

There’s a huge volume of facts and figures, not to mention the seemingly-never-ending institutional comment to digest. So it can take investors a while to come around to the appeal of certain companies, meaning that sometimes there are opportunities to be had for those prepared to look past the next quarter’s trading update.

A game of two halves

On that thought, I’ve been looking a little closer at two companies that have caught my eye over the reporting period. Barclays (LSE: BARC) is one of the ‘bad banks’, which seems to be unable to go a day without being in the news, and broadcaster ITV (LSE: ITV). Both reported last week and both share prices fell following the announcements.

Before we dig deeper, a quick look at the three-year chart below shows that there’s been a clear divergence in the share price over the last three years. Obviously, there’s usually a good reason for both positive and negative reactions to company results. The longer term one looks, the more accurate these reactions seem to be as the market eventually becomes the weighing machine it’s supposed to be.

For me, one standout reason for the differing share price can be seen by looking at the earnings performance over the last three years (2013-15 inclusive).

It’s clear ITV is the star performer here as it has managed to grow normalised earnings per share (NEPS) by 60%, from 9.21p in 2013 to 14.7p in 2015.

On the flip side, Barclays has seen the same normalised NEPS figure reduce by 72%, from 5.92p in 2013 to 1.65p in 2015, according to data from Stockopedia.

Notwithstanding the negativity in the market in general, and some concerns about debt, it’s fairly easy to see why one share has outperformed the other.

Dividend appeal versus dividend dog

Another measure of outperformance can be seen in growth of the dividend. Again, here we can see that ITV has outperformed, looking at the same three-year period. Inclusive of the three special dividends, which accompanied the normal dividend at year-end, shareholders at ITV have seen the total payout rise by 113%, from 7.5p in 2013 to 16p currently. Even if investors wanted to strip out the special dividend, the normal dividend has risen from 3.5p to 6p over the same period or by 71% – none too shabby.

On the other hand, Barclays shareholders have seen a flat dividend of 6.5p over the last three years, this will now be cut to 3p for 2016 and 2017 as the bank restructures. On the other hand ITV has pledged to grow the ordinary dividend by at least 20% to 2016.

Will You Grow Richer In 2016?

So for me the choice is a simple one – I like to see growing dividends as I find it a key measure of confidence going forward, and while there may be value in Barclays shares down here – they’re not for me currently.

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Dave Sullivan has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Barclays. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.