The FTSE 100 slidehas left big-name stocks on mind-boggling yieldsof 6% or7%, notably in the stricken banking, supermarket, oil and mining sectors.
The danger is thatsky-high yields can come crashing down to earth, as investors in Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group, andTescoknow to their cost. They can also make investors a bit sniffy about companies offering less dramatic but potentially more sustainable dividends, like the four companies Im going to discusstoday.
Income From Life
A few years ago insurance giant Aviva (LSE: AV) was yielding7% or 8%, and that certainly proved to be unsustainable. As the company struggled to turn performance around and catch up with runaway rivals such as Legal & General and Prudential, the dividend was an inevitable victim. Today, it yields just 3.93%. Aviva is the most disappointing stock in my portfolio, suffering endlessfalse starts.
Its making steady progress towards becoming a leaner, meaner business, and appears to have integrated Friends Life reasonably smoothly. Half-year profits rose 9% to 1.17bn, allowing management to hike its interim dividendby a progressive15% to 6.75p. Charles Stanley recently described Aviva as toocheap to ignore at a forecasteight times earnings per share for 2017, and set toyield 6.5%. The future looks brighter for Aviva, but where have I heard that before?
British American Tobacco (LSE: BATS) is seen as one of the most solid dividend stocks on the FTSE 100 but it certainly isnt spectacular, currently yielding 3.93%. Top investors such as Neil Woodford are addicted to its dependablysmooth income, as smokers stick to their habit through good times and bad. I am more wary, given the successful anti-smoking campaigns in the West. Emerging markets now account for 70% of sales but smoking couldalsofall thereas populationsbecome richer and better educated.
The emerging market currency slump has hitBritish American Tobaccos revenues when converted into sterling, although its strategy of cutting costs and focusing on premium brands has limited the damage. It is also seizing share as volumes fall. The interim dividend was up a steady 4% and should remain dependable but I am still wary of investing in what is ultimately a dying product.
United Stands Up
Stocks like water company United Utilities (LSE: UU) arent supposed to shoot the lights out, but itis up 65% over five years, and 17% over the last 12 months. It still yields a healthy 3.89% although at 18.64 times earnings it canno longer be described as cheap.
Ofwats recently-announced five-year framework, which sets out how much water companiescan charge, gives investors an unusually clear view of the future. United Utilities plans to increases dividend by at least RPI inflation until 2020, down from RPI +2% in the previous five years, but that should still be enough to whet most income investors appetites.
Standard Life (LSE: SL) has been hit by the recent FTSE 100 sell-off, falling 13% in three months. That has helped the yield, which is now a tempting 4.28%. The valuation is alarmingly expensive, however, at more than 25 times earnings.
Standard Life has evolvedfroma traditional life insurer to a fee-based asset manager and has benefited from changing pension fashions, such as the move away from final salary schemes into defined contributions, and the introduction ofthe government-backed auto-enrolment scheme.
Todays turbulent markets may harmnet inflows but it iswell-placed to withstand the volatility. Management recently lifted the interim dividend by 7.5%to6.02p, a progressive move but that pricey valuation still worries me.
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Harvey Jones holds shares in Aviva. He has no position in any other of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don’t all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.