The last few years have been particularly tough for Morrisons (LSE: MRW). No-frills operators such as Aldi and Lidl have been able to attract Morrisons’ customers through cheaper prices and this has caused a fall in sales for the supermarket chain. And with unsuccessful forays into new services such as convenience stores hurting profitability still further, the outlook for Morrisons’ dividend may seem to be rather dire.
However, with a new strategy and an improving operating environment, shareholder payouts at Morrisons could be much stronger than many investors realise. With wages rising at a faster pace than inflation, customer shopping habits may return to their pre-credit crunch status and price may become a less important factor in shoppers’ decision-making process.
As such, Morrisons is forecast to increase its bottom line by 31% in the current year and by a further 10% next year. This means that dividends should be covered more than twice by profit in the next two years, which indicates that dividend increases are on the horizon. And with Morrisons yielding 2.8%, it could become an enticing income play over the medium-to-long term.
Also suffering from disappointing financial performance in recent years has been insurer RSA (LSE: RSA). It endured accounting problems and fell into lossmaking territory in 2013, but with a new strategy it’s quickly turning itself around. In fact, it’s forecast to record a rise in earnings of 48% this year, followed by a further increase of 23% next year. Such strong growth figures have the potential to boost RSA’s dividend and with it paying out just 43% of profit as a dividend, there appears to be significant scope for rapidly rising shareholder payouts.
As a result, RSA’s current yield of 2.9% isn’t representative of the company’s income potential. Certainly, forecasts aren’t guaranteed, but with RSA trading on a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 14.6, it seems to offer a sufficiently wide margin of safety alongside strong income prospects to merit investment at the present time.
One for income-seekers
Meanwhile, AstraZeneca (LSE: AZN) also has the potential to become a star dividend stock. Although it has failed to increase dividends per share during the last five years, the next five years are likely to be hugely different for the pharmaceutical business.
That’s largely because AstraZeneca’s bottom line is likely to return to growth during the period following the patent cliff that has seen blockbuster drugs fail to be adequately replaced. And while AstraZeneca is expected to record a further fall in earnings in each of the next two years, its acquisition programme is set to continue and act as a positive catalyst on its top and bottom lines.
With AstraZeneca yielding 4.7%, it continues to offer a yield that’s higher than the FTSE 100’s yield of 4%. With its dividend growth potential taken alongside such a strong yield, it appears to be well-worthy of purchase for income-seeking investors.
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Peter Stephens owns shares of AstraZeneca and Morrisons. The Motley Fool UK has recommended AstraZeneca. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.