But somebodys buying Morrisons shares, so why?
A horrible year
The companys woes are well-known. With the whole sector being pressured by competition from the Lidl and Aldi cheapies, Morrisons is the most vulnerable of the FTSE 100 supermarkets as it is so far behind in terms of online shopping and mixed-format stores.
Thats certainly not a good reason to buy the shares.
Earnings per share fell by 8% last year, which is bad enough, but theres a 50% slump expected this year. Thats not a good reason to buy the shares either.
While Morrisons was hurtling headlong into its current crunch, it just kept on bumping its dividend every year, and last year it provided a yield of 5.4%. Recent forecasts suggested a 7% yield for the year to January 2015, which would be a good reason to buy the shares.
Except that its widely expected that Morrisons will announce a dividend cut along with first-half figures due on Thursday 11 September. Rival Tesco famously slashed its interim payout by 75% recently, setting a precedent for the sector.
Hmm, perhaps not a good reason to buy after all.
Share price crash
The share price has collapsed over the past year, losing 40% to todays 175p, and now were starting to see what actually might be good reasons to buy. After the slump, the shares are still on a forward P/E of 14, mind, so anyone buying now would be wanting a pretty sharp return to earnings growth.
Theres an 11% EPS rise forecast for 2016, but with so much uncertainty surrounding the sector and the company, thats not worth a lot right now.
But lets get back to that dividend. With the falling shares having pushed the yield so high, theres room for a substantial cut while still leaving a decent return at todays price.
In fact, if last years payment was cut by 50% to 6.5p per share, that would still provide a dividend yield of 3.7% above the FTSE 100 average, and covered 1.9 times by forecast earnings.
It would leave Morrisons with some spare cash, and if EPS starts to rise again the following year, there could be room for the dividend to start to grow again.
So, perhaps ironically, a dividend cut this week could prove to be a good reason for buying Morrisons shares, in the hope that it will help with a longer-term recovery.
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Alan Oscroft has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK owns shares in Tesco. We Fools don’t all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.