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7 Dividend Stocks With A Low Payout Ratio

The main focus of dividend investing is finding and buying dividend stocks that will likely continue to raise their dividends in the future. In making this determination there are many factors to consider. One of the more important metrics to consider is the Dividend Payout Ratio.

Traditionally, this is calculated as Annual Dividend Per Share divided by Earnings Per Share (EPS). I don't particularly care for this calculation. Due to all the odd accounting rules; EPS is not cash. Instead, I prefer to use a Free Cash Flow Payout Ratio.

Free Cash Flow has several different definitions, but the one I use is Operating Cash Flow less Capital Expenditures. These amounts are found on the statement of cash flows. Operating cash flow starts with Net Earnings and adjusts out non-cash items, such as depreciation and amortization, and non-operating items such as land sales.

Since a business can't continue in the long-term without capital spending (machinery and equipment, etc.), capital expenditures are subtracted from operating cash flow in calculating free cash flow. It is important to note, that only "normal" capital expenditures are deducted, not acquisitions. The decision to make an acquisition or divestiture is strategic, not operating.

Once calculated, Free Cash Flow is divided by diluted shares to put it on a per share basis. Finally, the annual dividend per share is divided by free cash flow per share to calculate the payout ratio. With the traditional EPS based payout ratio, many people consider 50% or below good. However, since a lot of the noise has been removed when using free cash flow, I consider a payout ratio of 60% or lower good.

The lower the payout ratio the more cash is available to increase the company's dividend. A low ratio is especially good during an economic downturn, when the amount of cash generated will likely be less.

Here are several stocks with a free cash flow payout ratio less than 30% and a yield greater than 2%:

Franklin Resources Inc. (BEN) is one of the world's largest asset managers, serving retail, institutional and high-net-worth clients.
FCF Payout Ratio: 23.0% | Yield: 2.0%

Chubb Ltd. (CB), a specialty insurer, provides commercial insurance and reinsurance coverage and expanded its personal lines presence following its January 14, 2016 acquisition of Chubb Corp. for $28.3 billion in cash and stock.
FCF Payout Ratio: 22.8% | Yield: 2.1%

Prosperity Bancshares Inc. (PB) owns Prosperity Bank, which provides financial products and services to small and medium-sized businesses and consumers.
FCF Payout Ratio: 25.4% | Yield: 2.3%

Aflac Incorporated (AFL) provides supplemental health and life insurance in Japan and the U.S. Products are marketed at work sites and help fill gaps in primary coverage.
FCF Payout Ratio: 10.5% | Yield: 2.4%

Cincinnati Financial Corp. (CINF) is an insurance holding company that primarily markets property and casualty coverage. It also conducts life insurance and asset management operations.
FCF Payout Ratio: 29.0% | Yield: 2.8%

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store (CBRL) develops and operates the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store restaurant and retail concept in the United States.
FCF Payout Ratio: 5.3% | Yield: 3.0%

Old Republic Intl (ORI) is an insurance holding company that engages mainly in the general (property and liability), title, and mortgage guaranty and consumer credit indemnity run-off businesses.
FCF Payout Ratio: 29.0% | Yield: 3.9%

The data present above is in its raw form. Some of the the companies would be disqualified for poor dividend fundamentals. However some of the others may be worth some additional probing.

My database, D4L-Data, is an Open Office spreadsheet containing more than 20 columns of information on the 250+ companies that I track. The data is sortable and has built-in buttons and macros to make it easy to use. Companies included in the list are those that have had a history of dividend growth. The D4L-Data spreadsheet is a part of D4L-Premium Services and is updated each Saturday for subscribers.

Full Disclosure: Long AFL, CINF in my Dividend Growth Portfolio, long CBRL in my High Dividend Growth Portfolio and long ORI in my High-Yield Portfolio. See a list of all my Dividend Growth Portfolio holdings here.

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