AstraZeneca plc, BP plc and Unilever plc are Brexit dividend WINNERS

Not every company stock collapsed in the aftermath of the shock Brexit referendum result, canny investors spotted opportunities as well as threats to their portfolio. As the pound collapsed, income seekers realised that companies with strong overseas earnings should prove more rewarding. Here are three stocks that are likely to be Brexit dividend winners.

Astra shines

Pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca (LSE: AZN) ended Friday 3.41% higher and is up 10.36% across the last turbulent week. Over the same period, sterling has fallen from around $1.46 to $1.33, a drop of around 9%. That is far from a coincidence. AstraZeneca generate more than 90% of its profits overseas but has a large cost base in the UK, which will be less of a burden as its overseas earnings rise relative to the pound.

AstraZeneca converts its dividends into pence on the day results are announced – twice a year in March and September – and although we don’t know whether the dollar will remain strong against sterling over the longer term, that’s certainly the way to bet right now. The company suffered during recent sterling strength, with Q1 results showing revenue up 5% to $6,115m, but just 1% at actual exchange rates. That now looks set to reverse. Trading at 13.3 times earnings it isn’t overpriced, while the yield is healthy at 4.9%. The big question is whether chief executive Pascal Soriot can replenish AstraZeneca’s drugs pipeline, but for now the dollar pipeline will be flowing.

Brexit petroleum

Friday’s result may have divided the nation but it united investors in pursuit of oil major BP (LSE: BP), whose share price rose 1.73% on the day and now stands nearly 6% higher than it did a week ago. In January, chief executive Bob Dudley warned that investment in the UK energy sector could fall if Britain voted to leave the EU. But the company put on a brave face after the result, publicly stating that “we do not currently expect it to have a significant impact on BP’s business or investments in the UK and continental Europe, nor on the location of our headquarters or our staff“. Investors are taking that at face value today.

The uncertainty has set back the oil price recovery, with Brent crude falling from over $50 to around $47 a barrel, but markets are calculating that this is only temporary. Sterling weakness is likely to last much longer and with oil priced in dollars BP’s revenues will be the beneficiary. As will income seekers, given that BP declares its dividend in dollars, and its current yield of 7.1% has just got even juicier.

Uni winner

Household goods giant Unilever (LSE: ULVR) is another instant Brexit winner rising 3.11% on the day and trading 6.72% higher over the week. Almost 60% of its revenues come from emerging markets, with dollar and euro earnings on top, which is good news when sterling is plunging against a basket of global currencies. 

Unilever reports in euros and UK investors have already benefitted from pre-referendum uncertainty: Unilever recently raised its Q1 dividend by 6% to EUR0.3201 per share, which equated to 17% in sterling terms. We can expect more of that, unless the euro comes under greater pressure as Brexit contagion spreads.

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Harvey Jones has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK owns shares of and has recommended Unilever. The Motley Fool UK has recommended AstraZeneca and BP. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.