Nucor Corporation (NYSE:NUE) and its subsidiaries engage in the manufacture and sale of steel and steel products in North America. It operates in two segments, Steel Mills and Steel Products.
Nucor Corporation is a dividend aristocrat as well as a component of the S&P 500 index. It has been increasing its dividends for the past 34 consecutive years. From the end of 1998 up until October 2008 this dividend growth stock has delivered an annual average total return of 14.70 % to its shareholders. This year however the stock is down about 40% as the commodity boom seems to have dried up the demand for materials, including steel, across the globe.
Annual dividend payments have increased by an average of 39.70% annually over the past 10 years, which is much higher than the growth in EPS. Nucor’s last quarterly payment of $0.52/share consisted of $0.32 of regular dividend and $0.20/share in supplemental dividends.
A 40% growth in dividends translates into the dividend payment doubling almost every 2 years. If we look at historical data, going as far back as 1973, NUE has actually managed to double its dividend payment every four years on average. The last major dividend raise was between 2005 and 2006 when dividends increased by a whooping 475% in one year, helped by increased demand for metals worldwide. After this major move total dividends paid have actually decreased by 15% mainly because of a decrease in the supplemental dividends.
If we invested $100,000 in NUE on December 31, 1998 we would have bought 9249 shares (Adjusted for two 2:1 stock splits in 2004 and 2006). In March 1999 your quarterly dividend income would have been $300. If you kept reinvesting the dividends though instead of spending them, your quarterly dividend income would have risen to $5806 by September 2008. For a period of 10 years, your quarterly dividend income would have increased sixteen times. If you reinvested it however, your quarterly dividend income would have increased over nineteen times!
Investors should proceed with caution in the future as such dividend growth rates are definitely unsustainable given the recent collapse in commodities prices and talk about deflation and depression.
The dividend payout has slowly increased from upper twenties to high forties over our study period. A lower payout is always a plus, since it leaves room for consistent dividend growth minimizing the impact of short-term fluctuations in earnings.
I think that NUE is attractively valued with its low price/earnings multiple of 5, a not too high DPR, as well as an above average dividend yield at 5.90% (3.80% if you only count the base dividend). The current dividend yield is way above average for this stock which could compensate for the lower expected growth in company’s fundamentals or even be a warning sign that Nucor’s dividend is in danger.
I do believe that NUE is an attractive buy candidate on dips below $32, since it adds some further diversification exposure to a dividend growth portfolio. Since Nucors main business, steel is a highly cyclical business I would proceed in purchasing NUE stock cautiously. Over the next few years I wouldn’t be surprised if this stock retraces all of its gains during the 2003- 2007 bull market and ends up below $20/share.