A 4.5% Dividend Too Steady to Miss

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I feel almost duty-bound to point out that the shares of my favorite supermarket chainWmMorrison  (ISE: MRW.L) , are selling more cheaply now than they were when fellow Fool Cliff D'Arcy extolled the company's virtues in March, at the time of the full-year results.

The shares were a good value then, and they are an even better value now. Leading the long list of the company's attractions is the forward dividend yield of almost 4.5% -- more than twice covered by anticipated earnings for 2012.

Growth initiatives
Morrison gets most of my food money, as well as my share money. When I go to the local store, it feels fresh and vibrant. In fact, the company has fitted its new fresh-food concept, Fresh Format, in the store. Now, exotic fruits and vegetables, temptingly arranged and bathed in swirling mist, greet me seductively as I enter the store.


These types of growth initiatives are encouraging. Morrison intends to roll out Fresh Format during 2012, and it sits well with other initiatives. For example, there are the first three "M local" convenience stores, which are performing well; the launch of Morrisons.com, scheduled for late 2012; the recent acquisition of Flower World; and planned investments in meat and fish that are designed to progress vertical integration of the supply chain.

Strong performance
I shop at Morrison with an investor's eye -- not just as a value-seeking shopper, but also with a finger to the pulse of the place. To me, it feels upbeat, wholesome, and rather pleasant to shop there. I reckon the experience will attract others, too.

The figures suggest that to be the case:

 

2010

2011

2012

Revenue (millions of pounds)

15,410

16,479

17,663

Net Cash From Operations (millions of pounds)

735

898

928

Diluted Earnings per Share (pence)

22.37

23.43

26.03

Dividend (pence)

8.2

9.6

10.7

Borrowings (millions of pounds)

1240

1052

1715

It's pleasing to see that cash flow has fueled profits, which have kept the steadily progressing dividend well-covered. Meanwhile, to support 901 million pounds of capital investment during the year, debt has risen to give a gross gearing figure of about 32%.

The latest guidance
On May 3, the company updated the market with an "in line" statement. There was the usual cautionary note about the challenging economic environment, along with assurances about the company's ability to continue to deliver profitable growth.

At today's 272 pence share price, you can pick the shares up on a forward earnings multiple of just under 10 for the current year, compared to Tesco's (OTC: TSCDY) forward multiple of about nine and J Sainsbury's multiple  (ISE: SBRY.L) of 10.

That's not a bad price for a company that seems to keep getting the basics right.

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At the time this article was published Kevin owns shares in Morrison and Tesco. The Motley Fool owns shares in Tesco.Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Tesco. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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