Peeking Into The New Year

It’s that time of year when the pundits are outlining their 2020 top picks with assorted rationale to support their stance.  I find these exercises interesting at the very least and somewhat illuminating as well. I have to admit I am not immune to the siren song as I have participated in a few.  For instance, last year I participated in Roadmap2Retire’s and placed thirteenth. Not bad considering I was effectively out of the contest mid-year with my pick being acquired.

I also tracked sector picks of mine versus Kiplinger using SPDR as a baseline.  For grins I included Cramer’s Power Rankings and Catfish Wizard’s sector picks. Unfortunately, both of these didn’t complete the quest leaving myself and Kiplinger in a tie.

This year’s entrant was to the Dividends Diversify Investment Ideas for 2020 and Beyond panel.  One of my strengths (or weakness, if you prefer) is to view scenarios through a unique prism.  Of the 20 companies, 11 are already in my portfolio. Other than Visa, which generated one observation, these were ignored (why else would I own them?).  Tom grouped companies by segment (like ‘Energy and Oil’) where I chose sector as identified by Morningstar. The duplicate (Visa) was counted twice for my purposes.

  • Financials                  28.57% (6)
  • Technology                          19.05% (4)
  • Utilities                      19.05% (4)
  • Energy                9.52% (2)
  • Healthcare            4.76% (1)
  • REIT                4.76% (1)
  • Communication Services    4.76% (1)
  • Consumer Defensive        4.76% (1)
  • Industrials            4.76% (1)

Through this lens, a slightly different perspective emerged.  With volatility and stability key concerns, I found Financials being a “go-to” sector as interesting.  The following are my observations with the note they are strictly my perspectives. They should not be construed as a criticism of any of the individuals or selections.  Following is my typical, outside the box purview.

The observation on Visa is based on Tawcan’s rationale, “They also make money from users when they don’t pay the balance in full each month.”  The issuer absorbs both the risk and the reward on this aspect so no additional profits to Visa here.

One surprise was the Utility Sector.  

  • GenYMoney selected Fortis which has been on and off my watch list for awhile.  My issue with them has been their Caribbean dependence on diesel. I may need to review this with the advent of solar in the region.
  • Cheesy Finance selected Canadian Utilities.  My issue here is the ownership structure. CU operates as a subsidiary of ATCO (52% ownership) which in turn is controlled by Sentgraf (a Southern family company).  CU class A shares are also non-voting.
  • Brookfield Renewable Partners was the pick of My Own Advisor.  Most investors’ issue with them is that as a Limited Partnership they issue K-1s.  Although they have no UBTI history, some individual and corporate investors shy away from K-1s. 

Three selections were (in my opinion) a little contrarian.

  • The Rich Miser picked Ally.  This one I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.  Yes they do pay a dividend, but only since July of 2016.  My guess is they were restricted by the TARP bailout. Now TARP in and of itself is not a show stopper for me but the fact that they were formerly known as GMAC – yes GM’s financing arm – gives me pause.  Now, ten years post bailout, they still derive 70% of their business through dealers – that is my issue.
  • MoneyMaaster chose  Artis REIT which recently cut their dividend knocking it off most DGI’s radars.  He does make a compelling case though.
  • Freddy Smidlap selected CDW which is a value added reseller.  The issue here is the possibility of margin compression in the event of an economic downturn.  Plus they have a limited track record since their second IPO.

The ones in my portfolio I’ll periodically add to during the year (except Power Corp which is already a little overweight).  One gets the nod to appear on my watch list, FTS.

And I have to commend Tom for the time and effort in putting this together so people like me can have some ammunition for alternative theories. Just for grins, I added these selections to a spreadsheet available on the main menu titled 2020 DivDiversity Panel. This should update automatically (as per Google standards).

September 2019 Update

The market continued with its’ on-going roller coaster, triggered primarily by external factors in the political arena – basically trade and impeachment. Despite the turmoil, the S&P gained 2.46% and my portfolio rose 4.15%. For the year, I’m outperforming the benchmark by 4.96%.

Like DivHut, I try to make at least one buy per month although these purchases have become smaller as my sentiment has grown increasingly cautious. Therefore, my cash position via non-reinvested dividends (not reported) has grown. The lack of Y/Y dividend growth for September is a testament against hoarding cash – particularly when hit with dividend cuts earlier in the year. This month the grandkid was forced to liquidate her portfolio or face losing 25% of her college assistance (grants/scholarships, etc.). Reminder to self: Future topic possibility being the dark ugly underbelly of custodial accounts (529s are even worse …) Anyway, I decided to deploy part of my accumulated cash to build a replica of her portfolio that I will hold. Bottom line, just when I think I’m shrinking the number of companies owned I get thrown a curveball.

PORTFOLIO UPDATES

  • increased my JNJ position
  • increased my CL position
  • increased my CHD position
  • added GPN (lost TSS via merger)
  • increased my DIS position

DIVIDENDS

My primary focus resides on dividends with the goal being a rising flow on an annual basis.

  • September delivered a decrease of 3.4% Y/Y. This was my first decrease since December 2018 and is primarily a result of not staying ahead of the first quarter dividend cuts (e.g., cash position)
  • Dividend increases averaged 10.34% with 61.67% of the portfolio delivering at least one increase (including 4 cuts). This is off last years’ pace and I believe a new personal record for dividend cuts in a single year since about 1980.
  • 2019 Dividends received were 82.89% of 2018 total dividends putting me on target to exceed last year’s total in late October or early November. The YTD run rate is 108.08% of 2018, slightly under my 110.0% goal – but still recoverable – especially with the portfolio replication decision.

Note: I updated my Goals page to provide a visual of these numbers.  Based on Mr All Things Money’s instruction set with a conversion to percentages.  My code only updates when the monthly Y/Y number is exceeded.  Otherwise, the prior year actual is used.

SPINOFFs

On Oct 4, 2018 MSG filed a confidential Form 10 to spin the sports business which remains in progress.

MERGERS

XRX merger with Fujifilm cancelled (still being litigated). The expected settlement was disallowed by the judge September 13th.

PB to acquire LTXB for 0.528 shares and $6.28 cash for each LTXB share. I plan voted in favor of the transaction (on both sides), pocket the cash and sell the new shares – retaining the old PB shares post-merger. I will not add to my PB stake.

VLY to acquire ORIT for 1.6 sh VLY to 1 ORIT. This merger will result in a slight dividend cut November forward as the rate will be normalized to VLY’s current rate. In my view, the other positives outweigh this negative.

PBCT to aquire UBNK for .875 sh PBCT to 1 UBNK. I plan to hold this one as I wouldn’t be surprised if PBCT gets taken out at some point.

Spirit MTA REIT (SMTA) voted on Sept. 4th to approve the sale of most assets to HPT for cash. A second vote was held to liquidate the REIT. Awaiting final settlement payouts and still expecting to be a profitable outcome for one of my most speculative positions.

The three banks continue to validate my strategy of bank consolidations from a few years ago. The only flaw (so far) was the holding period required – but dividends were received while waiting.

SUMMARY

Overall, no complaints. It appears the pending mergers/liquidation might provide enough of a premium to improve my performance over the index, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself yet. I still see a little consolidation in my holdings through the last half of the year and am still migrating to a slightly risk off stance, offset slightly by companies with compelling stories. My cash position will hover close to zero while replicating the kids’ portfolio but expect the dividend growth to accelerate into the first half of 2020 with this strategy.

Here’s hoping your month was successful!

Investing in CBD

Subsequent to the passage of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, signed into law December 21st, there has been a significant amount of speculation as to the rise of the market for CBD oils, edibles, supplements and derivatives. Migrating across the country are calls to create a system – or infrastructure – if you will, to enable this budding (pun intended) industry to grow and thrive. This bill clarified two gaps in prior legislation related to industrial hemp, namely removing hemp from the definition of marijuana and and creates an exception to the THC in hemp – essentially declassifying it as a Schedule I narcotic, as long as it has no more than 0.3 percent. Then the state has to enact processes – subject to USDA approval – before being legal. The most onerous of which is mandatory testing of the THC threshold.

In a role reversal of sorts, the new reality is that CBD is legal at a federal level with a hodge-podge of regulations at the state level with a degree of federal oversight. For the time being, one can assume differing laws depending on the state. This is also subject to change regularly. For purposes of this discussion, we’ll assume Texas is moderate – neither at the bleeding edge nor trailing the pack – as HB1325 was signed into law last month and retailers are already making an appearance – pending registration. Many – including myself – are attempting to identify ways to profit from these endeavors with no clear answers. DivHut (via a guest post) tackled this question and laid out a great foundation before withering away at the end. I do have to concur there may well be room to run in this space, the key being in what way – which we’ll explore a little further.

Retail is the obvious starting point with CVS and Walgreen are dipping their toes in the water while Amazon is marketing CBD-less hemp oil. The bad news, if any, is that any sales made by these giants would be negligible to earnings. This isn’t to ignore the mom-and-pop shops or franchise operations appearing, only that as a passive investor the options currently limited.

Manufacturing is the second area for research but winds up being the most convoluted depending on your interest, e.g., topical, edible, oil, prescription drug, THC or CBD, et.al. My approach is to categorize into two segments: Consumer and Cultivation. The consumer side being a product supplier to a retailer or consumer direct. Cultivation is a little trickier in that the Texas bill legalizes hemp farming and the sale and possession of hemp-derived CBD oil containing less than .3% of THC. Meanwhile growing hemp is not yet legal until the USDA provides guidelines and approves state applications. This could be considered a quagmire of sorts, but of a temporary nature.

Extraction and Testing is the final area to watch as this is where the heavy investment will take place. One piece of the Texas Law is, ” the laboratory must be accredited under ISO/IEC 17025 or other comparable standard. License holders may not use their own laboratories for state testing unless the license holder has no ownership in the laboratory or less than a ten (10) percent ownership interest if the laboratory is a publicly traded company.” Consider that most – if not all – of the law enforcement labs require upgrades to differentiate between now legal and still illegal products. Xabis, an independent lab, has forged a deal with Westleaf that includes equity based compensation.

So who currently has my eye?

  • Retail – Elixinol Global (ELLXF). Assuming this Aussie company can navigate through the FDA regs unscathed.
  • Manufacturing – Canopy Growth (CGC) – pursuing a license to process hemp in New York state
  • Testing – Eurofins Scientific (ERFSF)

All of which are highly speculative – so tread lightly and do your due diligence. Is this a space you too are looking at (additional suggestions are always welcome)!

Update 4 Aug 2019: On Aug 1 I initiated a position in Innovative Industrial Properties Inc. (IIPR), a REIT in the medical space.

Picking Winners & Identifying Losers

It has been said many times before that attempting to time the market is a fool’s errand. One approach common with Dividend Growth Investors the one taken by DivHut which is to  “…invest in a consistent and systematic manner. Over the long haul, being invested and staying invested in the stock market gives you the best long term odds of success.”  The benefits are consistency, removing emotions and dollar cost averaging while the disadvantages – particularly if fully invested – is the reduced ability to take advantage of “one day sale events” which are becoming more common.

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Portfolio Breakdown by Geography

I’m always intrigued by how investors position themselves in providing a measure of protection against market downturns.  Most common is sector diversification where the theory is a downturn in one area of the economy is offset by outperformance – or at least stability – in other areas.  DivHut recently posted his quarterly sector review which – as he indicated – is reasonably aligned with his risk tolerance and goals.  The weakness in this approach is his low exposure to Technology or in my case an overexposure to Financials.  So long as potential weaknesses are identified, this approach does allow a portfolio to be tilted towards sectors which the investor believes will outperform the broader market.

Another approach was presented by Roadmap2Retire last March where the attempt was made to isolate the geographic revenue diversification of the companies he owned.  A daunting effort to be sure, but I’m not sure the data he obtained was complete.  As an example, he reports BCE’s revenue as 100% Canadian.  That is likely as reported in filings.  Not reported is their 37.5% stake in Maple Leaf Sports which owns the Maple Leafs (NHL) and Raptors (NBA).  The NBA pays revenue sharing in US dollars (not Canadian).  Basically any minority stake, investments or joint ventures with other companies are likely to be excluded from any of the companies he owns.  The question becomes – is this revenue identifiable and negligible?

The approach I take is – first sector and secondly the country where the company is headquartered.  Dividends paid are recorded post exchange to US currency which does result in some fluctuation based on the relative strength (or weakness) of the dollar.  The following table illustrates the non-US source for roughly 15% of my dividends.

8.98% Canada
0.53% United Kingdom
0.04% Bahamas
2.44% Australia
0.13% Ireland
0.32% Mexico
0.00% China*
1.29% Hong Kong
0.20% Chile
0.26% Luxembourg
1.47% Singapore

* no dividend paid at this time

The UK dividends are set to increase once a merger involving one of my US companies is complete.  I may be forced to slow foreign purchases as recent political events have resulted in the US dollar weakening and the Yen and Swiss Franc strengthening.  If so, I’m sure I can find a few US companies to put my money into!

 

 

Prepping for ’17

In my inbox I found a message inspired (?) by my last post.  In a nutshell, it was a request for further insight into my October purchases.  I have to admit that, on the surface, the appearance is that I was throwing stuff against the wall to see what would stick.  I would like to think I’m slightly more calculating.  To set the scenario, I had an oversized cash position due to a merger, the markets had started their pre-election downward drift and the FBI just breathed new life into Candidate Trump’s aspirations.

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