The Most Promising Dividends in Aircraft Stocks

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Dividend payers deserve a berth in any long-term stock portfolio. But seemingly attractive dividend yields are not always as fetching as they may appear. Let's see which companies in the aircraft industry offer the most promising dividends.

Yields and growth rates and payout ratios, oh my!
Before we get to those companies, though, you should understand just whyyou'd want to own dividend payers. These stocks can contribute a huge chunk of growth to your portfolio in good times, and bolster it during market downturns.

As my colleague Matt Koppenheffer has noted: "Between 2000 and 2009, the average dividend-adjusted return on stocks with market caps above $5 billion and a trailing yield of 2.5% or better was a whopping 114%. Compare that to a 19% drop for the S&P 500."

When hunting for promising dividend payers, unsophisticated investors will often just look for the highest yields they can find. While these stocks will indeed pay out the most, the yield figures apply only for the current year. Extremely steep dividend yields can be precarious, and even solid ones are vulnerable to dividend cuts.

When evaluating a company's attractiveness in terms of its dividend, it's important to examine at least three factors:

  • The current yield
  • The dividend growth
  • The payout ratio

If a company has a middling dividend yield, but a history of increasing its payment substantially from year to year, it deserves extra consideration. A $3 dividend can become $7.80 in 10 years, if it grows at 10% annually. (It will top $20 after 20 years.) Thus, a 3% yield today may be more attractive than a 4% one, if the 3% company is rapidly increasing that dividend.

Next, consider the company's payout ratio, which reflects what percentage of income the company is spending on its dividend. In general, the lower the number, the better. A low payout ratio means there's plenty of room for generous dividend increases. It also means that much of the company's income remains in its hands, giving it a lot of flexibility. That money can fund the business's expansion, pay off debt, buy back shares, or even buy other companies. A steep payout ratio reflects little flexibility for the company, less room for dividend growth, and a stronger chance that if the company falls on hard times, it will have to reduce its dividend.

Peering into aircraft
Below, I've compiled some of the major dividend-paying players in the aircraft industry (and a few smaller outfits), ranked according to their dividend yields:

CompanyRecent Yield5-Year Avg. Annual Div. Growth RatePayout RatioAdd to Watchlist
Elbit Systems (NAS: ESLT) 3.6%13.8%16%Add
Boeing (NYS: BA) 2.6%7.3%33%Add
United Technologies (NYS: UTX) 2.6%12.5%34%Add
Rockwell Collins (NYS: COL) 1.8%12.4%24%Add
Textron (NYS: TXT) 0.4%(42.7%)8%Add
Triumph Group0.3%17.0%2%Add
HEICO (NYS: HEI) 0.2%15.6%7%Add

Data: Motley Fool CAPS

Focusing on dividend yield alone can be problematic, if the dividends in question aren't growing at a good clip, or the payout ratio is too high. None of the above companies pose those concerns, though.

Instead, let's focus on the dividend growth rate first, where Triumph Group, HEICO, and Elbit Systems lead the way. Steep growth rates can be hard to maintain for long, but since their payout ratios are low, that's not an immediate concern. More problematic is that Triumph and HEICO have such low current yields that it will take a while for them to reach a meaningful size.

Just right
As I see it, among the companies above, Elbit Systems offers the best combination of dividend traits, sporting some solid income now and a good chance of strong dividend growth in the future.

Of course, as with all stocks, you'll want to look into more than just a company's dividend situation before making a purchase decision. Still, these stocks' compelling dividends make them great places to start your search, particularly if you're excited by the prospects for this industry. Remember, though, that you may find even more attractive dividends elsewhere, such as in electric utilities or tobacco.

Do your portfolio a favor. Don't ignore the growth you can gain from powerful dividend payers.

Looking for someAll-Star dividend-paying stocks? Look no further.

At the time this article was published

Copyright © 1995 - 2011 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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