It’s fair to say the outlook for FTSE 100 dividend investors has changed dramatically in recent months due to Covid-19. Only a few months ago, investors could rely on well-established FTSE companies to provide them with a steady stream of dividends. And the yields – which were often 5%, or higher – were excellent.
Today, however, the situation is very different. Over the last few months, over 40 companies in the FTSE 100 index have suspended or cancelled their dividends, due to Covid-19 disruption. Meanwhile, plenty of other companies have reduced their payouts.
There’s been plenty of big-name casualties. For example, oil major Royal Dutch Shell, which hadn’t cut its dividend since World War II, recently cut its quarterly payout by a huge 66%. Meanwhile, income favourites, such as Lloyds Bank, Barclays, BT Group, and Aviva, have all suspended or cancelled their payouts.
This suggests to me that dividend investors now need to be much more selective with their dividend stocks. The days of being able to hold a struggling, debt-laden FTSE 100 company, such as BT Group, and pick up a big 5%+ yield look to be over.
So, what’s the best way to build a dividend portfolio now then?
Building a FTSE dividend portfolio today
If I was putting together a dividend portfolio today from FTSE stocks, I’d focus predominantly on high-quality businesses. Specifically, I’d look for companies that:
Have genuine long-term growth prospects
Strong competitive advantages
Aren’t highly cyclical, meaning they’re able to generate relatively consistent profits and cash flows throughout the economic cycle
Aren’t drowning in debt
Have a dividend growth track record of at least five, if not 10, consecutive dividend increases
Have a dividend coverage ratio (the ratio of earnings per share to dividends per share) of at least 1.5
Finding these types of companies isn’t easy. But I’ve highlighted a selection of FTSE companies that generally meet this criteria:
Smith & Nephew
Note that none of these companies offer a huge yield. The average among them is about 2.7% (still relatively attractive, compared to the abysmal interest rates on savings accounts).
Yet what they do all offer is reliable dividends. And that’s what you want as a dividend investor.
Not one of these companies has suspended, cancelled, or trimmed its dividend in the wake of the coronavirus disruption. That’s impressive. There’s no guarantee they won’t cut them in the future, of course but, in my view, there’s a relatively low chance of that happening.
I’ll also point out that all of these companies have the potential to deliver dividend growth going forward. That’s a real plus, as dividend growth tends to lead to healthy total returns (capital gains plus dividends) over time.
The key to dividend investing
So, that’s how I’d build a dividend portfolio today. I’d focus less on high-yield stocks and more on high-quality FTSE stocks that have attractive long-term growth prospects.
These kinds of stocks are more likely to maintain, and grow, their dividends over time. And that, ultimately, is the key to success when investing for dividends.
If you’re looking for more dividend investing tips, read on…
With global markets in turmoil as the coronavirus pandemic tightens its grip, turning to shares to generate income isn’t as simple as it used to be…
As the realities of ‘life under lockdown’ begin to bite, many of the stock market’s ‘go-to’ high-yielding companies have either taken an axe to their dividend pay-outs… or worse, opted to suspended them altogether – for the near-term at least.
With so many blue-chip and mid-cap companies scrambling to hoard cash right now, where are we income investors to turn for decent yields?
Fortunately, The Motley Fool is here to help…
Our analyst has unearthed what he believes could be a very attractive option for income- seeking investors – a company that, in his view, boasts a ‘reliably defensive’ business model, combined with a current forecast dividend yield of 4.2% to boot!*
But here’s the really exciting part…
This business even has form in riding out this kind of situation, too… having previously increased sales and profits back in 2008 and 2009 when the world was gripped in the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression.
*Please be aware that dividends are variable and not guaranteed.
Edward Sheldon owns shares in Unilever, Diageo, Reckitt Benckiser, Sage, Prudential, Smith & Nephew, Royal Dutch Shell, Aviva and Lloyds Banking Group. The Motley Fool UK owns shares of and has recommended Unilever. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Barclays, Diageo, Lloyds Banking Group, Prudential, and Sage Group. 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.