Glencore (LSE: GLEN) has tested its investors’ nerves over the past five years. Between July 2014 and July 2015, the share price fell 24% excluding dividends, compared to a decline of 2.5% for the FTSE 100.
Unfortunately, this was just the start. Over the next six months, to the end of January 2016, the stock cratered a further 65%. A dividend cut, then rights issue only added to the pain. However, since reaching the low in January 2016, the Glencore share price has undergone a miraculous recovery.
Today the company is undoubtedly one of the FTSE 100’s top income and growth stocks. But considering the commodity trader’s rocky past, should you buy the shares?
A miraculous turnaround
Since 2016, Glencore’s management has helped restore investor confidence by aggressively reducing debt and selling off assets. Higher commodity prices have also supported the business.
Today the group released its numbers for the first half of 2018, which clearly show how far the firm has come over the past two-and-a-half years. Adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation jumped 23% year-on-year to a record $8.3bn. Revenue was $108.5bn, against $100bn a year earlier. Net debt dropped to $9bn, from $10.7bn in the same period last year.
Adjusted EBITDA came in slightly below the City’s target of $8.5bn because the company struggled to sell 32,000 tonnes of copper. Management is confident it should be able to find buyers for this inventory in the second half.
With profits booming, Glencore’s management, led by Ivan Glasenberg (its founder and majority shareholder) is shifting its focus from growth towards shareholder returns. So far this year, the company has announced $4.2bn of cash payouts and stock repurchases, equivalent to 29 US cents per share.
According to my numbers, at the current rate of exchange, $0.292 is equal to 22.5p per share. Including debt reduction of $1.7bn or 9p per share, Glencore’s current shareholder yield is 9.7%. The shareholder yield captures the three ways of returning company cash to investors: debt paydown, share buybacks, and dividends.
And as the company exits recovery mode, I believe these healthy cash returns are set to continue, making Glencore, to my mind, one of the best investments in the FTSE 100.
Glencore isn’t the only miner chucking off cash. Iron ore giant Rio Tinto (LSE: RIO) also recently announced a record cash return to investors after several years of restructuring. Earlier this month, the company announced a $7bn cash windfall for investors. Rio plans to pay a record interim dividend of $2.2bn and add $1bn to its share buyback programme. Also, management is looking to return $4bn of asset sale proceeds to shareholders.
Even though the targeted $7bn cash return is a colossal figure, it pales in comparison to last year’s total distribution of $10bn, which amounted to 50% of shareholder returns for the entire mining sector.
Figures compiled by the Financial Times show that since 2013, Rio has returned $35.5bn to shareholders or 36% of its current equity market value. With the group targeting a further $5bn in efficiency savings from operations, and iron ore prices stabilising, it looks as if this trend can continue.
Based on the current dividend projections, shares in Rio yield 5.8%. The stock trades at a forward P/E of 10.6.
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Rupert Hargreaves owns no share mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.