August 2017 Update

The markets ended the month generally flat while whip-sawing in between on geo-political news (North Korea), domestic disturbance (Charlottesville) and natural disaster (Harvey) taking center stage.  I did deploy a minimal amount of new capital along with dividends received in some positioning moves.  The S&P ended the month up .05% while my portfolio lagged by dropping -0.34%.  The differential can be explained by two events, 1) higher exposure to Texas (e.g., hurricane), and 2) the month-end rise in the US dollar causing my foreign issues to drop a little.  For the year, I remain ahead of the index by 4.47%.

Headlines impacting my portfolio (bold are owned):

  • 8/3 – IVZ in talks to buy Guggenheim Ptnrs ETF business
  • 8/3 – VLO agrees to export refined fuels to Mexico through iEnova (SRE subsidiary)
  • 8/3 – SRC announces spinoff of Shopko properties
  • 8/4 – Ackman requests delay in ADP brd nomination deadline as “8% owner”
  • 8/4 – LAMR acquires Philadelphia market billboards from Steen Outdoor
  • 8/8 – ONB acquires Anchor Bank (MN)
  • 8/10 – PYPL acquires Swift Capital (Del.)
  • 8/10 – INVH and SFR agree to merge (BX stake to be abt 41%)
  • 8/15 – KEY acquires Cain Brothers (pvt)
  • 8/16 – TU acquires Voxpro (pvt)
  • 8/16 – PLD buys out CCP (CYRLY) JV
  • 8/20 – GS approved for Saudi Arabian stock trading license
  • 8/22 – PAYX acquires HR Outsourcing Inc. (a Clarion Capital portfolio company)
  • 8/22 – CLX sells Aplicare line to Medline (pvt)
  • 8/22 – BX considering an IPO/sale of Gates Global
  • 8/30 – KSU forms JV with Bulkmatic for bulk fuel terminal in Mexico
  • 8/31 – BNS confirms discussions to acquire Chile operations from BBVA Spain

Portfolio Updates:

  • Added to VLO
  • Added to LARK
  • Added to AROW

LARK and AROW were positioning moves ahead of anticipated stock dividends (3% announced by AROW post purchase)

Dividends:

  • August delivered an increase of 22.24% Y/Y with the about half of the increase being attributable dividend increases and the other half purchases.
  • August delivered a decrease of 12.99% over last quarter (May).  Semi-annual payers, a date change due to a merger, and normal BX dividend being the culprits.  Also a Singapore dividend paid in August (locally) has yet to be paid via Citi’s ADR (now likely Sept.), so I expect September to be firing on all cylinders.
  • Declared dividend increases averaged 10.92% with 62.71% of the portfolio delivering at least one increase (including 2 cuts and 1 suspension)
  • YTD dividends received were 75.91% of total 2016 dividends which if the current run rate is maintained would exceed last years’ total in early November

Spinoffs:

Brighthouse Financial (BHF) (MET spin) has been received.

Mergers:

AGU/POT (Nutrien) remains pending, SGBK/HOMB received regulatory approval and is expected to close late September.

Summary

Overall another positive month with the only disappointment being the Q/Q dividend decline – which was unexpected.  The primary metric (annual dividend increase) remains on target and well ahead of inflation.

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Weekly Musings – 13 Aug

Periodically, I post my thoughts on current news or recent postings adding my slightly irreverent take on the events and a sometimes offer a slightly contrarian view.  So follows the current installment.

Observation #1 – MET

This week, my allocation from MET’s spin of BHF arrived.  In layman’s terms, Brighthouse is a domestic play while MET has both domestic and international operations.  Personally, I viewed the logic as being a way to strengthen their hand (MET) in the ongoing court battle with the US regarding the SIFI designation -a view not presented in any interviews I saw.  Once trading began, it was widely panned as a lackluster performance.  Now this was a spin not an IPO, my take was it was aggressively valued – meaning (in theory) greater value was retained by the mother ship.  What garnered my wrath was the incompetence MET exhibited with the spin.

First the costs associated with the spin were underestimated.  This requires consent from bondholders to modify debt covenants (for a fee) with the alternative being selling common stock to attain appropriate debt ratios (dilution).  Secondly, a special meeting has been called (more costs) to vote on dividend payment tests included in the corporate charter.  The press release states:

These changes would avoid potential dividend and common stock repurchase restrictions which could occur as a result of the August 4, 2017 spin-off of Brighthouse Financial, Inc.

Why was this issue only identified post spin?  This gross mismanagement has placed MET into my Penalty Box and one has to wonder whether a meeting should be called to replace the CEO and Board?

Observation #2 – NUE

Sure Dividend analyzed Nucor recently, but his usual precision was (in my opinion) lacking.  Invoking “Trump” in the headline was bound to get visits and his ‘Take a pass’ recommendation hit the mark but the review missed in a few areas:

  1.  The claim of dumping is certainly an allegation yet no part of his analysis was to drill down on the validity of this claim.  Such as a strong US dollar.  Or the findings of the WTO.
  2. He does address electricity as being a significant cost component to the manufacturing process but fails to note that they entered into a 20+ year contract with Encana (ECA) for natural gas in 2012.  Any failure to perform (deliver) could be detrimental to NUE’s margins.
  3. Lastly in a dent to NUE’s dumping claims, their 2016 JV with JFE (JFEEF) to build a Mexican factory to supply the auto industry has a hollow ring to it.  As in, Who’s really doing the dumping?

Observation #3 – DIS

While roaming the channels this morning I came across a segment on Fox (FOX) about how to invest despite the troubles in North Korea.  One talking head said Disney citing their theme park exposure was insulated from it.  Really?  Perhaps he ignores the fact that 18-20% of US Disney visitors are foreign.  How would this be impacted?  What would the traffic count (or currency repatriation) be like in China?  What about travel to Paris or Tokyo?  Just one more reason why Fox is not my choice for news.

Hope you enjoyed this segment … until next time.

July 2017 Update

The general upward trend continued in July with major indices again hitting new highs.  With my strategy shift in place, I did deploy new capital but only in a positioning move ahead of a spin. The S&P ended the month up 1.93% while my portfolio trailed with a gain of 1.77% largely due to the financial sector lagging the market.  For the year, I’m ahead of the index by 4.86%.

Headlines impacting my portfolio (bold are owned):

  • 7/5 – YUMC indicates reviewing possible dividend payout
  • 7/7 – MET acquires FIG’s asset management business
  • 7/10 – CM acquires Geneva Advisors
  • 7/11 –BR acquires Spence Johnson Ltd
  • 7/12 – ABM acquires GCA Services
  • 7/12 – AAPL adds PYPL as appstore pymt option
  • 7/13 – MFC reportedly reviewing sale or IPO of John Hancock
  • 7/17 – CHD to buy waterpik
  • 7/17 – China places restrictions on loans to Wanda (AMC)
  • 7/18 – MKC to buy RBGPF’s food business
  • 7/18 – CCI acquires Lightower
  • 7/19 – HRNNF (H.TO) to acquire AVA
  • 7/20 – SRC considering spinoff of Shopko properties
  • 7/21 – BX and CVC Capital offer $3.7B for Paysafe (PAYS.L)
  • 7/26 – SHPG rumored to be takeover target
  • 7/27 – Ackman discloses stake in ADP
  • 7/28 – IRM acquires Mag Datacenters LLC
  • 7/31 – BX (w/ ETP 50.1%) buys 49.9% of holding co. that owns 65% of Rover pipeline

 Note: my comment of July 21st on AMC (Dividend Diplomats) remains prescient in light of their warning on August 1st.  I believe now is a viable entry point if cognizant of possible risk to the dividend particularly as related to lender covenants.  EPR may have a slight risk as well.

Portfolio Updates:

  • Added to MET (spinoff positioning)

Dividends:

  • July delivered an increase of 2.14% Y/Y with the vast majority of the increase being attributable dividend increases.
  • July delivered a decrease of 8.85% over last quarter (Apr) with TIS (dividend suspension) and foreign cycles (interim/final) being the culprits.
  • Declared dividend increases averaged 10.81% with 61.02% of the portfolio delivering at least one increase (including 2 cuts and 1 suspension)
  • YTD dividends received were 69.81% of total 2016 dividends which if the current run rate is maintained would exceed last years’ total in early November

Spinoffs:

MET has declared their spinoff – Brighthouse Financial (BHF) – effective August 4th.  Holders as of July 19th will be entitled to 1 share for each 11 MET shares owned.

Mergers:

AGU/POT (Nutrien), SGBK/HOMB remain pending

Summary

Overall another positive month with the only disappointment being the Q/Q dividend decline – which was expected.  The primary metric (annual dividend increase) remains on target and well ahead of inflation.

2017 Mid Year Correction

Each year I establish a basic plan to govern my investing activity based on sectors, segments or locales able to deliver a little alpha to my portfolio.  The past couple of years had a focus on the Financial industry with the outcome being rewarded with mergers (small banks) and outsized dividend increases (money center banks).  I also began increasing my Canadian allocation in 2015 from 2.5% of my dividends to the current 8.6%.  Since the election, I was accelerating the increase in my other foreign holdings to the current 13.6% on two theories, 1) gridlock in Congress would persist as the Republican majority would be too narrow to push through sweeping changes, and 2) this inaction would result in a weaker dollar.  It appears I was correct on both counts as the US dollar is now at an eight month low.

With my alpha agendas now too pricey (at least for slam dunk results), a re-prioritization is in order. With the Fed Chairs’ testimony this week indicating that GDP growth of 3% would be difficult, the Trump agenda which projects a higher growth rate is likely in peril – even ignoring the self-inflicted wounds.  Without an improvement in the GDP, deficit hawks will be circling.  It is likely the last half of the year will present some opportunities, but my view these will be predicated on external events.  My eyes will remain open to the USD exchange rate – on strength I may buy foreign issues.

My portfolio allocation between holdings labeled Anchor, Core and Satellite have been imbalanced for a year or two primarily due to merger activity and the acceleration of adding foreign issues.  Now that the major mergers have completed, the last this past January, and other alternatives are slim, I figure it’s time to get back to basics.

My going forward strategy can be summarized as follows:

  1. Non-US equities when secured at a favorable exchange rate
    a)I have 2 Japanese, 2 Swiss, 1 UK and 1 Swedish company on my watch list in the event an attractive price presents itself
  2. Assess corporate actions (spins, splits, mergers) for opportunities
    a) Generally I’m agnostic to splits except when the result would be a weird fractional.  I can easily manage tenths or hundredths of shares.  Smaller sizes are troublesome so I avoid when possible.
    b) Spins (and mergers) are assessed to prevent (if possible) weird fractionals.  For instance, I added to my MET position earlier this month as their spin will be at a ratio of 11:1 which would have otherwise delivered a weird fractional.
  3. Assess portfolio for average down and other opportunities
    a) An example of this was last months’ purchase of KSU.  To this end, I recently updated my Dividends (Div Dates) Google sheet to flag when the current price is lower than my cost basis.
    b) An example of “Other Opportunities” would be BCBP which is resident in my Penalty Box due to dilution.  The dilution (secondary) might be explained (now) with their announced acquisition of the troubled IA Bancorp.  If the regulators provide their seal of approval, it may be time to remove BCBP from Penalty status and perhaps add to this 3.5% yielder.
  4. Add to holdings that are below target weighting
    a) This is where I expect most of my second half activity to reside.

Of my 26 stocks labeled Anchor, Core or Satellite; 5 can be considered at their target weight (within .5% of the target) and 4 I consider to be overweight.  The remaining 17 will receive most of my attention.  As most of these rarely go on sale, I’ll likely ignore price and place a higher priority on yield and events – at least until I’ve exceeded last years’ total dividends.

The following table highlights this portion of my portfolio:

JAN/APR/JUL/OCT

COMPANY TYPE PORT DIV%
Kimberley-Clark/KMB A-(6%) 4.01%
First of Long Island/FLIC C-(3%) 0.85%
Sysco/SYY C-(3%) 1.81%
Bank of the Ozarks/OZRK C-(3%) 0.67%
PepsiCo/PEP S-(1.5%) 1.51%
First Midwest/FMBI S-(1.5%) 0.3%
Comcast/CMCSA S-(1.5%) 8.32%
Toronto-Dominion/TD S-(1.5%) 1.58%
NOTE: Not all payment schedules coincide completely

FEB/MAY/AUG/NOV

COMPANY TYPE PORT DIV%
Clorox/CLX A-(6%) 3.68%
PNC Financial Services/PNC C-(3%) 0.30%
Legacy Texas Financial/LTXB C-(3%) 1.48%
Starbucks/SBUX C-(3%) 1.07%
Blackstone/BX S-(1.5%) 2.58%
Apple/AAPL S-(1.5%) 1.26%
Lakeland Bancorp/LBAI S-(1.5%) 1.04%
Webster Financial/WBS S-(1.5%) 0.82%
NOTE: Not all payment schedules coincide completely

MAR/JUN/SEP/DEC

COMPANY TYPE PORT DIV%
WEC Energy/WEC A-(6%) 5.61%
3M/MMM C-(3%) 0.76%
Home Depot/HD C-(3%) 7.32%
Blackrock/BLK C-(3%) .22%
ADP/ADP C-(3%) 1.60%
Southside Bancshares/SBSI S-(1.5%) 0.96%
Chevron/CVX S-(1.5%) 9.52%
Norfolk Southern/NSC S-(1.5%) 1.99%
Flushing Financial Corp/FFIC S-(1.5%) 0.99%
Wesbanco/WSBC S-(1.5%) 1.14%
NOTE: Not all payment schedules coincide completely

I will provide the caveat that this plan is subject to not only the whims of  the market but of my own as well.  In addition, this plan may be changed if/when a better idea comes along.

June 2017 Update

June was an interesting month in that the Tech sector hit a rough patch, some IPOs had trouble getting out the door and financials had a second wind.  Frankly I think a lot of the action had more to do with repositioning as some funds/traders’ positions didn’t perform as anticipated and are now playing ‘catch up’ during the last half of the year.  The S&P ended the month up 0.48% while my portfolio recorded a gain of 1.44% largely on the heels of the bank CCAR results.  For the first half of the year, I’m ahead of the index by 5.02%.

Headlines impacting my portfolio (bold are owned):

  • 6/12 – HYH explores sale of surgical line (infection prevention)
  • 6/12 – SBSI acquires Diboll Bancshares
  • 6/14 – OUT acquires Dynamic Outdoor
  • 6/23 – IBTX sells 9 Colorado branches to TBK
  • 6/23 – CM completes PVTB merger
  • 6/23 – Upon merger, POT/AGU to be renamed Nutrien
  • 6/27 – V takes stake in Klarna
  • 6/27 – XRX sells France research center to NHNCF
  • 6/29 – MET spin finalized
  • 6/30 – OCFC to acquire SNBC

Portfolio Updates:

  • Added to KSU
  • Added to CLX

Dividends:

  • June delivered an increase of 31.84% Y/Y with, once again, the vast majority of the increase being attributable to foreign dividend cycles (larger, although less frequent).  With one exception this should now be normalized.
  • June delivered an increase of 12.4% over last quarter (Mar).    The breakdown of the increase is:
    • 37.4% replacement for TIS (which paid in April (late) and suspended the div)
    • 36.2% April purchase for tax reduction
    • 14.8% foreign cycle
    • 11.3% purchases from dividends/dividend increases
    • For the second month in a row, no new cash invested
  • Declared dividend increases averaged 10.82% with 56.5% of the portfolio delivering at least one increase (including 2 cuts and 1 suspension)
  • YTD dividends received were 59.58% of total 2016 dividends which if the current run rate is maintained would exceed last years’ total in early November

Note: My portfolio additions have begun migrating back to US equities as the weakness in the US dollar has been faster than I forecast.  Unless geopolitical events occur to reverse this trend I suspect fewer foreign issues will be acquired.

Spinoffs:

MET has declared their spinoff – Brighthouse Financial (BHF) – effective August 4th.  Holders as of July 19th will be entitled to 1 share for each 11 MET shares owned.

Mergers:

AGU/POT (Nutrien), SGBK/HOMB remain pending

 

May 2017 Update

May was generally quiet with the market trending generally higher.  With few pullback opportunities, I barely deployed new dividends so my cash position increased again.  At least the turmoil I experienced moving from Loyal3 subsided and I could resume a more moderate pace.  An upcoming election in the UK may present a buying opportunity on weakness in the GBP versus the US dollar.  The S&P ended the month up 1.16% while my portfolio recorded a gain of 1.37%.  For the year (so far), I’m ahead of the index by 4.07%

Headlines impacting my portfolio (bold are owned):

  • 5/1 – DRE sells medical office portfolio to HTA
  • 5/1 – TIS suspends dividend
  • 5/4 – FHN to acquire CBF
  • 5/30 – JNS/HGG.L merger completed (becoming JHG)
  • 5/31 – KEY acquires HelloWallet from MORN

Portfolio Updates:

  • Initiated position in SGAPY
  • Added to IVZ
  • Added to PWCDF (proceeds from sale of TIS)
  • Added to DST
  • Added to PLD

Dividends:

  • May delivered an increase of 51.44% over May 2016 with the vast majority of this attributable to foreign dividend cycles not held last year.
  • May delivered an increase of 38.94% over last quarter (Feb) for the same reason.
  • Declared dividend increases averaged 8.89% with 48.02% of my portfolio delivering at least one increase (2 cuts – XRX and YUM; 1 suspension – TIS)
  • YTD dividends received were 47.11% of total 2016 dividends which if the current run rate is maintained would exceed last year’s total in early November.

Note: with 14.6% of current dividends paid by foreign sources, the weakening US dollar is providing a tailwind with exchange rates i.e., increasing my return.

Spinoffs:

The MET spin (Brighthouse Financial – BHF) remains in regulatory review.

Mergers:

Agrium/POT, SGBK/HOMB remain pending

April 2017 Update

April brought more noise to the market with geopolitical issues front and center.  The market appeared to acknowledge the fact that even with Republican control of government, a more centrist approach is necessary to accomplish much of anything.  The President’s first 100 days ended with one legislative win; a Supreme Court Justice.  As earnings season kicked into high gear and the French election completed (runoff pending), the markets rebounded and the S&P ended the month with a .91% gain.  Including new money (mostly IRA maximization), my gain was 3.41% (2.32% excluding new money).

Loyal3 Migration

The forced move from the Loyal3 platform is essentially complete.  Full shares arrived at Schwab April 27th.  Fractionals did not move – basically a he said/she said scenario.  Schwab says they would accept them while Loyal3 said they wouldn’t.  All fractional shares on Loyal3 were sold April 28th, netting $218.59.  Loyal3 was basically my ‘spare change’ broker and illustrates the benefits of investing even small amounts.  The trades will settle Wednesday and Friday I’ll transfer remaining funds – after I see which direction the YUM dividend goes.

I decided to use Schwab’s synthetic DRIP for PEP, DIS, SBUX, KO and HAS to mitigate the sting of having to sell shares – even fractionals.  I’ll take the cash on YUM, AMC, AAPL and K.

Headlines impacting my portfolio (bold are owned):

  • 4/3 – IBTX closes Carlile merger
  • 4/4 – NJR/SJI discuss merger
  • 4/4 – MSGN discusses sale
  • 4/7 – JNS merger date expected 5/30/2017 new ticker expected to be JHG w/ qtrly divs
  • 4/10 – UNIT acquires Southern Light (pvt)
  • 4/17 – CCI to acquire Wilcon Holdings
  • 4/17 – BX acquires Eagle Claw Midstream
  • 4/20 – UMBF sells institutional investment arm to RJF
  • 4/20 – SLF acquires Premier Dental
  • 4/24 – NWBI to close consumer finance subsidiary
  • 4/27 –TOWN to acquire PBNC,
  • 4/27 – IVZ to acquire Source UK

Portfolio Updates:

  • Added to JNS
  • Added to VALU
  • Initiated position in PWCDF
  • Initiated position in ARD
  • Initiated position in HOMB
  • Sold LB
  • Sold UL
  • Reduced (fractional positions) YUMC, SBUX, PEP, K, YUM, DIS, SQ, KO, AMC, AAPL, HAS

Dividends:

  • April delivered an increase of 32.55% over April 2016.  17.25% of this increase is attributable to purchases, 48.41% a result of semi-annual cycles (Ireland, Australia) and the remaining 35.51% a result of dividend increases.
  • April had an increase of 20.28% over the prior quarter due primarily to the same reasons.
  • Declared dividend increases averaged 8.72% with 42.94% of my portfolio delivering at least one raise (including 2 cuts – YUM, XRX).
  • YTD Dividends received were 38.1% of total 2016 dividends.  If the current run rate is maintained would exceed 2016 in early November – particularly with most of my semi-annual or interim/final cycles paying during the next quarter.

Spinoffs:

The MET spin (Brighthouse Financial – BHF) remains pending.

Mergers:

Agrium/POT, JNS/HGG.L (estimated completion 30 May) and SGBK/HOMB remain pending.  I did add to JNS and HOMB as both appeared undervalued versus the merger price.