The Defunct Kid Portfolio

This week saw the completion of the rebuild of my granddaughter’s portfolio.  Basically an effort that spanned six weeks and navigated some tricky waters – earnings season, trade news, Fed meeting … Yep, we had them all.  So, I figured it was only fitting to share the whys and wherefores of this little expedition since it pertains to the market.

Background

Since coming to live with us, the kid has been given an annual present of a stock holding and as such has accumulated a nice – but not quite fully diversified portfolio.  Over the years she has been proud of this and one year participated in a ‘mock’ stock contest at school which was (I believe) sponsored by FinViz taking eighth place in the state.  So it was a sad day for her when she was advised that the majority of college aid programs (Grants, Scholarships, etc.) would be discounted by 25% of her net worth. This includes savings, portfolio …  There goes the incentive for planning ahead. End result being upon graduation, her nest egg would be 0. My wife and I are not her parents – the legal status is guardian – so at least our net worth is not considered. So the game plan evolved to maximizing the available assistance.

Liquidation

The rules are similar between 529 plans and custodial accounts, except when liquidated.  With 529s, there is a penalty and possible tax restatements. With Custodial accounts there is the obligation of the custodian to prove the liquidation benefit was on behalf of the minor.  As these accounts were Custodial, I’m now tracking application fees, ACT/SAT testing fees and much more, so if necessary I can respond to an IRS audit.

My Decision

She’s aware that I chose to replicate her portfolio as a slice of one of my M1 pies.  So I laid the groundwork to ensure no dividends were lost in this migration. Fortunately I’d been holding much of my previously paid dividends in cash just waiting for an opportunity to present itself.  As the checks arrived, I moved an equivalent sum to M1. What I haven’t shared is my intention to gift it back to her upon graduation from college.

The Process

I created a spreadsheet with the sale price and the repurchase price to determine if I made or lost money (outside of fees).  I will say that I don’t have the nerve to try to time the market for a living. On the subject of fees, company plans managed by Computershare, Broadridge and Equiniti downright suck on fees when transferring or cashing out.  To be fair, that’s an aspect that’s not at the forefront of most DGIs who buy and hold for the long term. The fees ranged from a little over $25 (BR, CMSQY) to $0 (SCHW) with EQN.L in between at $15 and change. With today’s free trading schemes, the incentive for using traditional DRIPs will likely wane as I noted in one of my infrequent comments on Seeking Alpha.

Once started, I was blindsided by some events.  WFC named a new CEO, TXN provided weak earnings guidance and KHC had an earnings beat.  For the most part, I was able to better her sale price when I did my purchase as illustrated below.

Cur price as of November 8, 2019

Takeaways

While I didn’t enjoy this exercise, had I realized in 2010 what rules would be in place in2019 I’m not sure I would have done anything differently as the kid gained an appreciation for investing and the power of compounding.  Besides, Administrations come and go, rules and policies are ever changing. The key is adjusting to whatever is most beneficial at a point in time.

Going Forward

I will be hoarding most of my dividends once again until tax time as my wife took a part time job this year.  For the first time in a couple of years I’ll be able to make an IRA contribution. 2020 portfolio reporting will likely be a little strange – at least from my view of normalcy, as I tend to like consistency rather than one-off events.  (I know … first world problems …) My concerns lie more in highlighting dividend growth performance rather than portfolio growth via cash infusions – regardless of whether it’s new cash or self generated by reported dividends. This I’m sure will become clear as we progress into the new year.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcome!

October 2019 Update

On the 1.9% Q3 GDP growth rate, “The Greatest Economy in American History!” as contrasted with the 1.9% Q1 2012 growth rate under the prior administration, “Q1 GDP has just been revised down to 1.9%. The economy is in deep trouble.

As tweeted Oct 30, 2019 and May 31, 2012 by the now president, Donald Trump

With renewed optimism for a China trade deal (again), generally good earnings reports (though there were a few snags) and additional rate cuts in this Great Economy – perhaps to spur growth to the promised sustained 4%+ envisioned with the tax cuts (doubtful) – the markets did achieve new records. In spite of all this noise, the S&P rose 2.0% and my portfolio – sans purchases – rose 2.0%. I did deploy funds that were previously generated by the portfolio, accounted for in my reports , but then stashed in an interest bearing account. When incorporating these funds (repeat – no fresh money was used), the portfolio value rose by 8.65%. So, yes, purchases can have an impact on the portfolio. Imagine the potential results if it was “new money” and I had some years to let it run.

PORTFOLIO UPDATES

  • increased my LTXB position going into the PB merger
  • increased my JNJ position on weakness
  • Performed a partial rebalance resulting in slight increases to AROW, BANF, BKSC, BRKL, CVLY, FMBH, LSBK, NWBI, TMP, UMBF and WFC
  • New Position – GIS
  • New Position – WMT
  • New Position – UNP
  • New Position – RDS.B
  • New Position – HSY
  • New Position – TXN
  • New Position – ATO
  • New Position – T

DIVIDENDS

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

  • October delivered an increase of 7.49% Y/Y.
  • Dividend increases averaged 10.27% with 66.52% 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 93.01% of 2018 total dividends putting me on target to exceed last year’s total in mid-November. The YTD run rate is 108.77% of 2018, slightly under my 110.0% goal – but still recoverable. Point of reference, this the first time since starting this blog that I didn’t exceed the prior year dividends before the end of October.

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 acquired LTXB for 0.528 shares and $6.28 cash for each LTXB share which completed November 1st. I plan to pocket the cash and sell the old shares – retaining the new PB shares.

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 acquired UBNK for .875 sh PBCT to 1 UBNK – completed November 1st. 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. The first payment was received and am awaiting final settlement payout. Fully expecting a profitable outcome for one of my most speculative positions.

SUMMARY

Overall, no complaints. The initial quote can also bear reference to the growth rate of my portfolio this month – which is why I presented the results in two ways. Although accurate, I do not care to be viewed as tilting the scales in favor of one narrative over another. 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!

Buybacks (part 2)

To follow a theme outlined a couple of weeks ago, my going forward intent in my random musings segments is to view some of the issues of the 2020 presidential campaign under discussion.  My investing rationale has always been that to be successful, one has to understand all possible outcomes which means digging through a lot of crap to discern viable opportunities. It would appear at this early stage that much like 2016, 2020 will have plenty of that to wade through.  As an added bonus, I don’t want to disappoint my newest audience demographic by suppressing my irreverence. As always, these are only observations awaiting an investing opportunity that may never present itself.

The Pitchfork Economics series on buybacks continued on February 26th with Sen. Cory Booker (one of the multitude of Democratic presidential contenders) as a guest discussing his new bill, Workers Dividend Act.  Evidence cited to support his cause is twofold.

  1. American Airlines (AAL) wage increase was roundly panned by analysts.   Booker states the analyst opinions were misguided – which is true. To parlay these opinions into supporting rationale against buybacks is equally misguided as these were partially collectively bargained.  (i.e., benefit to unionized employees which is a goal of the bill.)
  2. His use of Walmart (WMT) as the proverbial case of buyback greed ignores some aspects that are detrimental to his position.  Walmart offers its’ employees matching 401K plans, stock ownership plans with a 15% discount and HSAs, of which some – if not all – allow employees to share proportionately in the “wealth” gained through buybacks.  The choice resides with the employee as to participation.

In an attempt to frame rhetoric with reality, I chose my oldest 15 holdings to identify what happened over the past three years.

Company201820172016
Comcast3.05% decline1.83% decline 3.18% decline
WEC Energy 0.09% decline .09% incr. 16.21% incr.
Chevron0.46% incr.1.33% incr.0.11% decline
Kimberly-Cl.1.77% decline 1.6% decline 1.26% decline
Norf. Southrn3.48% decline 1.93% decline 2.76% decline
Clorox1.19% decline 0.11% decline 0.8% decline
Prosperity B.0.51% incr. 0.28% decline 0.53% decline
Sysco0.5% decline5% decline 3.26% decline
Owens & Minor0.0% change 0.16% decline 0.16% decline
Walt Disney1.51% decline 3.72% decline 4.1% decline
Home Depot2.81% decline 3.82% decline 4.68% decline
PepsiCo0.9% decline 0.96% decline 2.22% decline
Kimco Realty0.62% decline 1.03% incr.1.66% incr.
Towne Bank0.13% incr.0.08% incr.1.05% incr.

Data from MacroTrends

In this scenario (excluding increases denoted bold/italic), the buybacks – as a percentage of the stock outstanding – actually decreased during each of Trump’s years as president despite the tax plan (from 2.1%/1.94%/1.45%).  Companies increasing their share count did so generally to use as currency in lieu of debt. In Chevron’s case this was to fund capital expenditures. Most of the others were for acquisitions.  It’s only slightly ironic that a merger cutting jobs and increasing capital concentration (banking sector) would be viewed more favorably due to an expanding share count

This discussion topic has also been picked up by Mr Tako Escapes who elaborates more skillfully than I.  I don’t dispute two points here, 1) Companies tend to have poor judgement in the timing of these transactions (buy high) and 2) the dollar amounts being expended.  But a dose of reality has to exist as well, I mean – realistically how many capex dollars should be spent to further the worldwide glut of steel (as one example)?

At least this exercise has been interesting but to draw any real conclusions requires a larger sample size.  More questions will also arise such as, ‘Are buybacks more prevalent in the overall S&P universe moreso than the DGI slice?’ or ‘Is my portfolio a large enough sample to be reflective of the stats bandied about by the Democratic candidates?’.  As usual in this blog, more questions than answers. I intend to complete this exercise for all of my holdings during the year

Other concepts will likely hit the garbage heap prior to getting much traction including a wealth tax (constitutional issues) and Modern Monetary Policy (hyperinflation).  As an aside, these concerns, per David McWilliams piece entitled Quantitative easing was the father of millennial socialism as presented by Ben Carlson makes for an interesting case. It certainly appears that the 2020 election season is off to a rousing start. Bottom line, I suspect some candidates will use this issue as a cry to rally the base with minimal substance to follow – similar in many ways to “Build the Wall” of yesteryear.  A reflection of what little has been learned over the last two years. In my mind not an investable theory.  

As always, opinions are welcome!

Stock Buybacks?

As we round the corner coming into the final week of this month, the markets are showing a robustness that is probably more of a relief with abating trade tensions as the broader market was more a mixed bag with earnings reports. Case in point being my ongoing saga with Owens & Minor which announced their second dividend cut. At least they aren’t facing a SEC investigation à la Kraft Heinz. The common denominator in these two cases appear to be – at least in part – a laser focus on trimming costs with too much emphasis on the salary component.

Which leads to this week’s topic prompted by a private message which read in part: “… (I listen to) Pitchfork Economics with Nick Hanauer … (which) talked about stock buybacks and shareholder value maximization… I was hoping you could listen to it and let me know if everything they talk about holds up, or if there are pieces of the puzzle missing that might have been left out to steer a narrative. I don’t know what I don’t know and I don’t like thinking I might be getting misled.

First half the battle is acknowledging a gap in understanding. Most of us only begin to realize this too late in life choosing to muddle through as best we can. Second, keep in mind the quote, “99 percent of all statistics only tell 49 percent of the story.” Ron DeLegge II

For my uninitiated readers, this podcast is targeted to the rising generational groups such as Millennials, Gen-Z etc. with a slight Socialistic slant. The New Green Deal (which I’m currently researching) resides in this category as well – (but with a twist). Anyway, there are three schools of thought to stock buybacks; they are good, they are evil or they’re neither. The podcast presents them as generally bad, the current administration treats them as good (no choice here as they were spurred on as a by-product of the tax plan). My personal view is under current law – particularly when the Supreme Court of the United States has granted to corporations the notion of “corporate personhood” – they are generally neither. I’m more of a guy that tries to eke out a profit regardless of the rules, knowing they will likely change at a future date and adjustments will be required.

Major Issues with the Podcast

  • 11:44 – “Secondary offerings aren’t all that important”
    • Depends on the type – if the secondary creates more shares to fund a new production line for instance, why would there be a penalty for a return to the original share count?
  • 18:30 – 90% of corporate profits are returned to the richest people via dividends and stock buybacks.
    • Wells Fargo is 62% owned by institutions and the number is about 15% for Walmart. Generally this reflects ETFs and mutual funds which are largely owned by individuals.
  • 16:00 – shareowners are not investors.
    21:07 – … buying stock is speculating not investing .
    23:01 –  … if you think shareholders are investors … that contributes to the growing economic inequality
    • Only in the narrowest of definitions (buying an initial issuance or direct from a company’s secondary) is this true. Even as “traders” an economic interest with ownership rights is gained with the price (implied value) the speculation.
  • 26:49 – chartered corporations existed to better society and for a limited time.
    • These types of corporate structures were modified (initially in NC-1795) to circumvent perceived constitutional limitations on enforcement of multi-state investments (canals, railroads). They maintained a societal purpose including eminent domain rights (conversely, eminent domain is a New Green Deal issue as well).
  • 33:32    – Wells Fargo … laid off employees while (enriching owners through buybacks).
    • The layoffs were due primarily to exiting business lines in an effort to refocus on core operations reducing (in theory) the ongoing capability for malfeasance.  Also to reduce overlapping operations (footprint acquired through acquisitions). It was not related to buybacks. In fact, Warren Buffett, the largest shareholder is precluded from owning greater than 10%.  He is required to sell when buybacks are performed resulting in no short term enrichment.

The one point I hadn’t really considered in this debate was their point at 40:08 of a possible prohibition of buybacks if employees are receiving public assistance. I would add underfunded pensions and Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) position of taxing buybacks like dividends to the mix of potential areas to improve. One area requiring caution is the treatment of large private companies versus public ones. Examples that initially come to mind are Hobby Lobby, Cargill, Chick-fil-A and Koch Industries. None of the Democratic challengers has yet presented (in my opinion) a viable solution to improve the status quo without discriminating against any current stakeholder thereby cheapening their argument regarding equality.

So, while appreciating the question, my response is probably clear a mud as this issue is a tangled web with no clear right or wrong answer. Only that your instincts are correct in attempting to discern all the arguments to formulate your own opinion. My guess is this rebuttal does not fully address all the issues either – but my 2¢!

Any thoughts, opinions or other considerations that you have?

April Showers

Below the shifting landscape that debates the notion as to whether tariffs are a negotiating ploy or the real deal, some pig farmers are now operating at a loss of thousands of dollars per week (futures markets have priced in tariffs) and soybean growers are considering whether to reduce their plantings to avoid the same fate.  Meanwhile the impact on our NAFTA partners is also being considered across the borders.  Canada can increase their soybean and pork sales to China but the net impact will still be negative to them considering the magnitude of trade volumes.  Mexico is expanding ties to China in an effort to mitigate the ‘Trump’ effect.  All the while, the administration has to be aware that China holds the ultimate ‘trump’ card in the debt held.  Some bearish views posit US interest rates could rise to 14% if China ceases their bond purchases.

With these headlines staring at us, it would be excusable to have missed some of the underlying news – one being in healthcare.  Two of my companies made the news this past week with possible or rumored deals; Shire (SHPG) and Humana (HUM).  Takeda’s interest in Shire has all the appearances of industry consolidation, Wal-Mart and Humana’s discussions are more along the lines of being one of the last gorillas.

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Let The Spend Begin

Curious minds have pondered the meaning of the Great Tax Reform Act of 2017, properly known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.  The debate has centered on whether repatriation or employee salaries or buybacks or dividend increases or debt repayment or capital investment.  Until Walmart, announcements have centered on bonuses or hiring pledges.  Not wages.  Not anything, really, that is a truly lasting benefit to the working stiff.

 

And this week is no different.  In a nod to the roughly 50% of population that own stock, Thursday, DST Systems announced they were being acquired by SS&C Technologies Holdings in an all cash deal valued at $84 per share.  While M&A activity is not an unexpected byproduct of the tax bill, there were two noteworthy items in the release.  The first being SSNC’s deal financing being a combination of debt and equity.  Current SSNC shareholders will be facing some level of dilution.  The second item is that the “significant leverage” will be attenuated through “cost synergies to stem from data center consolidation and reductions in corporate overhead”.    This sounds like code words for force and facility reductionAre there that many data centers on the company books?

Not being a SSNC shareholder (current or apparently future) appears to be a blessing in this merger.  As a DST shareholder I will be happy to tender my shares (and vote my proxy in favor of) the deal.  My only regrets are two: 1) Kansas City (for which I have a fondness) losing another company’s headquarters , and 2) that I didn’t own more shares.

My shares were purchased in four tranches with an average (post split) basis of $62.71.  Total gain will be $21.29 per share or 25.3% total gain (annualized average gain would be about 11.7% depending on when it closes).  Not too shabby a return and a good start towards equaling last years’ results.  The merger is expected to close in the third quarter.

The only other negative is the (new) tax impact with these gains likely locking me into the higher bracket I was attempting to avoid.  My philosophical observation being unless you’re extremely wealthy, the best way to avoid taxes is to make no money.  A theory to which I don’t subscribe!

‘Tis The Season

It’s getting to be that time of the year and since I don’t think the grandkid reads this thing, I figured I’d share one of the presents she’ll be getting.  Just to review, each year since she came to live with us she has received shares in a company as a gift. This gift has been purchased in a company DRIP, established as a Custodial Account of which I’m the custodian. Generally, the company is one in which she can relate, i.e., Trix was her favorite cereal as a kid hence the General Mills stock.

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