The corny title refers to one of my long standing holdings which has delivered excellent returns for me over the years. As I have written before it is one of those family run businesses which Lord Lee is fond of backing and indeed I think he has been in this one in the past. Any way I digress, but the stock concerned is S & U Plc which is now a £240 million market cap. car loan company which also has a fledgling bridging loan operation. So why mention it today? Well they have their AGM today and have put out a trading update statement ahead of that.
This confirmed continued strong trading despite what the share price might have been suggesting. If that is of interest you can read the announcement and learn more about S&U at their investor relations website. Here you'll also find links to some Proactive Investor Interviews with Anthony Coombs, chairman of S & U. I thought the last one, which you can view here if your want, was interesting as he seemed to be pretty confident about on going growth as they only take a small proportion of all the loans they are offered by their panel.
Cutting to the chase I think the shares look good value down here on around 10x this years forecast earnings with a 5% yield based on both of these growing in double digits, which seem likely given the latest update and the Chairman's confident comments in the interview after the finals in April.
Looking at the chart you are would not getting in at the top if you were to buy in now as the they have come back from over £25 to their current £20 or so. Looking at the chart below I have drawn on the trading range and what is called a triangle formation by connecting the highs in the recent downtrend and it looks like it might break out of this triangle one way or the other fairly soon. The theory is I believe that it should then move by around the height of the triangle which in this case is roughly 500p. So that would suggest targets on a decisive break, of either £15 or £25 which would be around the old highs which could then act as resistance.
My money is obviously on a breakout to the upside and having top sliced some of mine near the £25 high in 2015, I have been buying some back around the £20 levels recently. As ever you pay your money and take your choice. In the meantime I'll continue to enjoy the 5% yield including the 39p final worth 1.95% which is due to go XD on 15th June.
... I thought was an appropriate title for this piece as we saw the launch this week of a new film version of Dad's Army in which no doubt the latest incarnation of Corporal Jones will utter his famous catch phrase. So what's that got to do with investing I can hear you thinking. Well the don't panic phrase is a good one to try and remember when we are experiencing volatile markets such as those seen this January and since equity markets, with the benefit of hindsight, topped out last spring / summer.
Now some readers may be younger than me and indeed you may have only got interested in the stock market in recent years when it seemed like it only ever went up. While some will be older than me and have seen it all before no doubt. But it is worth remembering that equity markets only go up about 60% of the time and in a bear market which is defined as a 20% drop from a top, they can and do go down by 30% to 50% or more as we saw as recently as 2008/9. In extreme cases when certain markets are unwinding from bubble conditions they can and do usually fall by around 80% or more from the peak - think .com stocks back in the early 2000's for a recent example of that.
Having said all that investing in equities for the long term (10 to 20 years) has in the past delivered decent real (after inflation) returns in the region of 5 to 6% per annum which is always worth remembering, but whether you achieve these returns is largely dictated by the price or rating you pay at the outset. Swings in ratings both up and down help to drive secular bull and bear periods in markets which seem to have lasted on average around 17 to 18 years. It seems to me that having had a 17 year or so re-rating which peaked out in 2000 with the .com bubble, we have remained since then in a secular bear market as the FTSE has failed to make a decisive break into new high ground. This has not however precluded big swings a profitable period within that along the way, which is also in common with history. Any way if you want to read more about the theory of these long cycles I would recommend a book Stock Cycles by By Michael J. Alexander - as featured in my Resources list of recommended books and other useful things. Included on there is a link to Crestmont Research - which is really useful resource for swatting up on market ratings history and secular bull and bear markets.
Aside from that I read a good piece on AAII.com recently which included some useful thoughts on a more rational approach to portfolio valuation. This basically talks about thinking like an owner as Warren Buffet talks about and having in mind a fair PE rating for the stocks you own. It suggests you then compare the rating that Mr Market is putting on your stocks and decide whether that is under or over valued and act accordingly rather than being influenced by noisy share price movements along the way. Seem quite sensible to me and well worth a read if you have been panicking about recent price moves on stocks in your portfolio.
Now for me the other longer term thing I focus on, as you know, is the income you can get from the dividends and compounding those. In a similar way to the article above, by focussing on these and what you think might be a fair or minimum yield you would expect on your stocks, you can also take a longer term perspective. Indeed it is also noticeable that in the past, although no guarantees for the future, that dividends have tended to hold up a lot better than prices during bear markets. This was evidence most recently in the 2008/9 bear market and subsequently when the UK stock market fell by around 50% but according to data from Capita (see page 6 of report) total dividend payments only fell by 14.3% between 2008 and 2010. They have since 2010 gone onto rise by 49% which represents an exceptional rate of growth of 8.3% per annum over the five years since then. I say exceptional as in the long run real dividends have tended to grow by more like 1 to 2% in real terms and indeed if you look at all the data in the Capita report on page 6 and include their forecast of a small fall in dividends for this year then the growth rate over the whole 9 years is likely to be closer to 3.5% per annum which in real terms will be closer to the long run average.
On the subject of dividends and their volatility versus the market prices there was an interesting look at the history of this in the US at A wealth of common sense - called The Incredible growing dividend. Now while this was US based data it did help to highlight why I like to focus on growing dividends and compounding them over time. Further to that there was an update last year to research from the value house Brandes Institute called: Income as the Source of Long Term Returns. This looked at the importance of dividends in the long term, the dividend yield gap versus bonds and also the stability of dividends in the longer term. Indeed they found that the volatility of the dividend streams themselves was a very small fraction (under one-twentieth) of the volatility of stock price movements.
From this report I particularly liked the lessons from the following extracts:
The message in Exhibit 7 is clear: higher dividend-paying stocks delivered higher total returns. While this was partly due to the dividend return, it is also notable that on a price-only basis, the top three quintiles of dividend-paying stocks had higher price and total returns than quintiles 4 and 5, as well as the non-dividend-paying stocks.
We have stressed the long-term nature of this research. However, many investors still have concerns over short-term price volatility. Did a focus on higher yielding stocks cause exposure to extreme stock price fluctuations? Again, the answer from our research is “No.” In Exhibit 8, we look at volatility of both stock prices and dividends within the quintile universe. Volatility of stock price returns was lowest for the highest dividend yield stocks, and increased steadily as dividend yields declined. So investors in the top quintiles received both higher returns (Exhibit 7) and lower volatility (Exhibit 8). My emphasis on the last bit there as that is as close to investing Nirvana as you can get I would say. I would also highlight that they also observed:
We have long held that paying excessive attention to short-term price movements is a behavioural error that can lead investors to make bad investment decisions. The data in this research suggests that investors might do much better to focus on their portfolio’s income stream as it develops over time. Exhibit 8 shows that the volatility of that dividend income stream was a very small fraction (under one-twentieth) of the volatility of stock price movements. To the extent that volatility causes investors to worry, switching attention from price volatility to dividend volatility might ease that worry substantially.
Summary & Conclusion
So definitely worth focussing on the income and thinking long term to avoid worrying about short term market volatility and making behavioural errors as a result I would say. Having said that though in the short term it is worth bearing in mind the Capita forecasts and the suggestions of others that dividends are more vulnerable now as levels of cover in the UK have been run down to low levels, so I suspect the outlook for dividend growth from the market overall may not be as good going forward in the short term, but do try and think long term and don't panic.
This is especially obvious in the UK given the concentration in income from the top 5 stocks which represent 33% of the income while the top 15 represent over 50%. As the top 5 all have question marks over the sustainability of their dividends, this is worth bearing in mind if you are investing in tracker funds.
That's why I prefer to invest and seek out companies able to grow their dividends in a diversified fashion so my income is not dependant to a large extent on a handful of companies and should therefore give me a growing income stream to live off of and compound over the long term as hopefully I might have another 20 to 30 years on this planet if I'm lucky. Or as the Brandes Institute put it:
We believe this research illustrates that the industry acceptance of five years as a long-term investment horizon underestimates the potential of reinvesting and compounding income. By reinvesting the income contribution of investment returns, investors can leverage the power of compound interest. Investors should not let recent market experience distort their perspective, and particularly should avoid preconceptions that income is less important than capital gains in its contribution to total equity returns. Income has served as a significant component of returns, and the combination of reinvested income and capital appreciation historically has presented the best option for long-term investors to realize optimal returns.
Cheers have a great weekend, whatever you are up to. Finally to bring the post to a close and to bring it back full circle to the title - as it is the weekend and it has been a while since I inflicted any music on you - here's a song from a new band The Brothers Osbourne called - Stay a little longer which seems appropriate in the context of this post.
..reported a Q3 update today and you may be surprised to find out that this is Legal & General (LGEN). These numbers looked strong across the board with all the reported metrics looking good. In particular the net cash generation remained strong up 14% and operational cash generation was up 11%, This should help to underpin further dividend growth which has been strong in recent years as they have reduced the cover level.
Thus this year is likely to be the last year of near 20% dividend growth unless they manage to grow at that rate going forwards on an underlying basis. This years dividend is forecast to be around 13.4p which gives a yield of just over 5% at the current share price of 262p.
Next years dividend is currently forecast to be up by 7.5% to 14,4p raising the yield to 5,5%.
On the basis of the yield, which is the main attraction with this one, the shares should offer a double digit total return in the absence of any change in the rating or a broader market decline. As such it would probably deserve a place in a diversified income portfolio, but as ever you pay your money and take your choice.
Interim results that is from Maintel (MAI) the small £65m Aim listed telecommunications company which currently Scores 90 on the Compound Income Scores and is in the Mechanical Scores Portfolio. Similar to other smaller telecoms companies like Alternative Networks (AN.) and Adept Telecom (ADT) this one has grown by doing add on acquisitions. This period was no different as they saw the benefits of last years acquisition of a firm called Proximity enhancing their results as expected.
Underlying profits were flat but earnings were up by 8%. However, this includes various cost associated with acquisitions and when they adjust for these their reported adjusted numbers show earnings up by 30% with the dividend being raised by 38% as they bring the pay out ratio up towards 50% of adjusted earnings. This was achieved on Sales up by 20% and with increased gross margins of 38.3%.
The CEO sounded pretty bullish on the back of this when he said: "After another successful period, we have never been better placed; with a broader range of services and skills we have the ability to manage highly technical transformation projects for customers. Our new sales pipeline continues to grow and being appointed as an approved supplier on the new public sector network services framework agreement offers us the opportunity to tender for business not previously available to us".
The shares have been somewhat becalmed as you can see in the chart at the end of this piece, but I guess the news flow could act as a catalyst for a re-rating as they look good value compared to other similar companies like those mentioned above (Stockopedia Subscribers see here for a comparison). If you are not a subscriber to Stockopedia see free trial details.
They currently stand at about 670p +11% today and trade on around 10x with a 4.5 to 5% yield which seems like good value to me given the growth and the bullish outlook. However be aware that it is not terribly liquid stock as it only has about 37% free float and the spread is fairly horrendous at around 6% - 630 - 670p. Finally looking at the chart and technical picture it has been stuck in a 600 - 700p range so resistance and all time highs not far away, although proximity to 12 months high can be bullish for momentum. So if it can break out of that range that might suggest it could move up into the 700 - 800p range - the top of which would still only leave it on a more reasonable looking 13x with a 3.7% yield.
Or a contrarian idea for you. Now it cannot have escaped your attention that commodity prices have been under pressure for a while now with the oil price halving last year for example. This has also been the case for industrial commodities like copper, iron ore and also gold too. The net effect of this has been pretty disastrous for the oil & gas and metals and mining sectors.
Indeed we saw further falls in the mining sector yesterday, along with the rest of the market as it happens, but this took the sector down to lows last seen at the depths of the crisis in 2009. This has stirred some contrarian interest on my part, so I thought I would do some digging of my own and share with you what I have dug up.
Here is a ten year chart for BHP Billiton (BLT) which is something of a bell weather for the broader mining sector given its diversified nature, although they have focussed a bit more recently with the disposal of some non core assets via the demerger of South 32. As you can see it is not quite back to its lows of 2009, probably reflecting the slightly better quality of their operations versus the sector overall.
In terms of its rating it currently stands on nearly 20x for the year to June 2016 with a big decline (more than halving) of earnings already baked into the forecasts. Despite this the dividend is forecast to be up by 5% this year before being flat may be in 2016 despite cover collapsing to less than 1x next year. Thus there could be a risk of a dividend cut which the 7% or so yield is starting to factor in, although their dividend policy form the report and accounts is as follows. "We have a progressive dividend policy that seeks to steadily increase or at least to maintain the dividend in US dollars at each half-yearly payment." I note they did maintain their dividend during the last downturn in 2009, although they had much greater levels of cover as mining was still in the midst of its so called super cycle back then.
Talking of which I read an interesting article the other day which suggested that the mining sector or rather demand for industrial commodities is really reflecting the reality of underlying economies, demand and supply balances and deflationary pressures. Whereas financial markets are in their own super cycle these days being boosted by liquidity from central banks and resultant demand for financial assets. Thus ironically the miners might be better able to withstand a withdrawal of central bank liquidity and rising interest rates than other sectors as that might then indicate a more sustainable pattern of growth in the world which could be good for commodities.
Any way I digress lets get back to digging for value and yield. An alternative to BHP Billiton would be Rio Tinto (RIO) another diversified mining group. They actually look better value on around 16x this years earnings although their yield is lower at 5.6% to 5.8% as their cover is expected to remain above one and there may therefore be less risk of a dividend cut. Failing that if you are a gold bug and wanted to get really speculative you could always check out a Zimbabwean Gold miner - Caledonia Mining (CMCL) which has reported first half results today, although the recent fall in gold price makes that one less attractive now.
But as Status Quo sang - Is there a better way? Well regular readers will know I am a keen on investment trusts (as well as music) and there are a few ways you can play the sector via these. One I would highlight is the biggest most liquid play in the sector - BlackRock World Mining (BRWM) which has a market cap. of over £400m and stands at a discount of around 7% or so to its estimated Net Asset Value. So not only can you pick up a diversified portfolio of miners (if you want to) at a discount (including 10% or so in both BLT & RIO) but you also get a yield of 8.5% based on the current 21p dividend and a 245p share price.
Now that dividend is not cast in stone as the dividend from this one has been quite variable over the years (see page 7 of the report and accounts) and they did last cut it by nearly 14% back in 2009. in recent years they have introduced more of a focus on delivering a yield, although this did mean they messed up a bit by getting too heavily into some royalty schemes which didn't work out so well. Putting that to one side though the other attractive feature is the fact that they have revenue reserves (which can be used to pay and smooth dividends) equivalent to about 140% of the cost of the dividend. So if the manager and the board do their job then barring a complete collapse in mining dividend generally then they should at least be able to maintain or only slightly cut the dividend again.
Summary & Conclusion
So in summary the attraction here is that you can get a professionally managed and diversified portfolio of miners at a discount, plus a bit of gearing (12.5%) and with a yield that is greater than some of their main holdings and arguably better covered given the revenue reserves. Quite useful if you don't have the desire or inclination to get your head around metal prices and commodity cycles, but would like some longer term exposure as part of a diversified portfolio. If you did - then this seems like a good way to get it. The other reason to think about it now is on a contrarian basis as the sector has done so badly for the last six years or so and the yields available seem to indicate some value. However, as ever with investing no guarantees that it won't get worse and that the dividends and share prices could go down as well as up etc. but certainly one to put on the watch list. Personally as I was in need of some losses to offset against some of my gains I sold my BHP Billiton and stuck the proceeds into this for the reasons stated above.
Any way if that has whetted you appetite you can check out their site at the link in the name of the trust above where you'll also find a copy of their annual report and fact sheets etc. If not (did I mention I like music?) as a reward for getting this far, I'll leave you with some music, which hopefully you'll enjoy, as it is a fine album appropriately called After The Gold Rush by good old Neil Young.