Dividend stocks are everywhere, but many just downright stink. In some cases, the business model is in serious jeopardy, or the dividend itself isn't sustainable. In others, the dividend is so low it's not even worth the paper your dividend check is printed on. Therefore, finding a solid dividend takes the right balance of growth, value, and sustainability.
Today, and each week for the rest of the year, we're going to take a look at one dividend-paying company that you can put in your portfolio for the long term without much concern. This isn't to say that these stocks don't share the same macro risks that other companies have, but they are a step above your common grade of dividend stock.
This week we're going to take a look at Whirlpool (NYS: WHR)
Whirlpool is the world's leading manufacturer of major home appliances with a portfolio of brand names including Whirlpool, Maytag, and KitchenAid, to name a few. Annual sales topped $18 billion in 2010, and the company employs approximately 71,000 people worldwide. In short, this isn't a name that's going to disappear overnight no matter how fickle consumers' spending habits get.
Whirlpool is currently hovering very close to its 52-week low after cautioning investors in its third-quarter report that worldwide consumer spending on major appliances is down while its raw materials costs are up. There was more negative news yesterday when Sears Holdings (NAS: SHLD) announced that CIT Group (NYS: CIT) had ended its lending relationship with Sears' suppliers. While I wouldn't construe this as good news in any way, CIT's lending contributed to only 5% of all of Sears transactions, and Whirlpool generates only 8% of its revenue from Sears -- hardly what I'd call a dealbreaker.
When investing in Whirlpool, you need to understand you're buying into a cyclical business that has often remained profitable, even during tough times. Whirlpool has been profitable in nine of the past 10 years and is currently valued at only 93% of book value, its lowest price-to-book in more than a decade. It also, despite restructuring its business and dealing with rising expenses, is slated to earn roughly $5.50 in EPS in 2012 placing its forward P/E at a reasonable 11.2.
But I've saved the best for last: Whirlpool's impeccable dividend. Unlike packaging provider Bemis (NYS: BMS) which I highlighted last week as having raised its dividend an impressive 28 straight years, Whirlpool hasn't given in to yearly boosts. But that doesn't make its dividend any less desirable as is evidenced by its payout over the past 10 years:
Whirlpool's consumer cyclical peers average a dividend payout of 1.1%, so you can see why Whirlpool's 3.8% payout gets me excited. Even based on next year's declining profit expectations, Whirlpool's payout ratio is only a subdued 36%, which leaves the company plenty of room to increase it in the future.
Another way to turn Whirlpool's frown upside down is to consider the company's business in this context: If housing prices are at their lowest levels in years and consumer sentiment figures barely above their 30-month lows, imagine how strong its business will be when housing does finally rebound and the consumer begins making large purchases again.
Whirlpool is a household name that isn't going away anytime soon, and it appears to be an excellent value to long-term investors. My advice would be to sit back, collect Whirlpool's rock-solid dividend, and wait patiently for the housing market to stabilize. I will be maintaining my CAPScall of outperform on Whirlpool in my CAPS portfolio. The question now: Would you do the same?
Share your thoughts in the comments section below, and consider adding Whirlpool to your free and personalized watchlist so you can keep track of the latest news stories moving the stock.
Also, if you're craving even more dividend ideas, I invite you to download a copy of our latest special report, "11 Rock-Solid Dividend Stocks," which is loaded with income-producing companies hand-selected by our top analysts. Best of all, this report is free, so don't miss out!
At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorSean Williamshas no material interest in any other companies mentioned in this article. He sometimes wishes the laundry would just do itself. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen nameTMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen nameTrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle@TMFUltraLong.Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policythat always loves a free payout.
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