Deere & Company (DE), together with its subsidiaries, manufactures and distributes agriculture and turf, and construction and forestry equipment worldwide. The company is a dividend achiever that has paid dividends since 1937 and managed to increase them for 11 years in a row. The company’s peer group includes CNH Industrial (CNHI), Caterpillar (CAT) and AGCO Corp (AGCO)
The company’s latest dividend increase was announced in May 2014 when the Board of Directors approved a 17.60% increase in the quarterly dividend to 60 cents /share.
Over the past decade this dividend growth stock has delivered an annualized total return of 12.10% to its shareholders.
The company has managed to deliver a 21.30% average increase in annual EPS over the past decade. Deere is expected to earn $8.55 per share in 2014 and $7.73 per share in 2015. In comparison, the company earned $9.09/share in 2013.
Deere also has an impressive record of consistent share repurchases. Between 2004 and 2014, the number of shares declined from 506 million to 379 million.
The annual dividend payment has increased by 16.30% per year over the past decade, which is lower than the growth in EPS.
A 16% growth in distributions translates into the dividend payment doubling every seven years on average. If we check the dividend history, going as far back as 1989, we could see that Deere has actually managed to double dividends every eight years on average. What makes this analysis tricky however the fact that the company cut dividends in 1982 is, and the annual dividend didn’t exceed the 1982 highs till 1990. The annual dividend from 1982 didn’t really double until 2005.
Over the past decade, the dividend payout ratio has mostly remained low below 25%, with the exception of 2009. A lower payout is always a plus, since it leaves room for consistent dividend growth minimizing the impact of short-term fluctuations in earnings.
Deere has managed to increase return on equity from 30.60% in 2004 to 41.30% in 2013. Rather than focus on absolute values for this indicator, I generally want to see at least a stable return on equity over time.
Currently, the stock looks cheap, as it trades at a forward P/E of 10.40 and a current yield of 2.60%. I believe that the business is more exposed to economic cycles than the typical dividend growth stock that I usually focus on. However, when a business is cheap, it can still generate shareholder value even if there is only a small improvement. With Deere, the $8 billion share buyback could be one catalyst that could result in better returns going forward. As a result, I initiated a small position in the stock this week.
Full Disclosure: Long DE
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