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In compiling the Dividend Champions list (found here) I get to see which companies are nearing the anniversaries of their previous dividend increases. Most of these firms raise their payout about the same time every year, but some companies go longer before boosting their dividends, and this can raise concerns about their streaks of increases.

Dividends in Doubt Series

This monthly series lists companies whose latest dividend increases might be considered "overdue" because it has been more than a year since the previous increase, a possible sign that their streaks of increases are in danger. Some firms regularly go more than a year between increases, so this is only an "early warning" sign that some of them may warrant concern. This month, I've sorted the Champions, Contenders, and Challengers together, in order of their most recent increase ((NYSE:PAY)) dates. Except as noted below, the companies listed have until the end of 2013 to declare dividend increases and extend their streaks. Note that companies with dates in 2011 managed to pay their shareholders more in total during 2012 because the former was split between two rates, whereas the latter was composed of payments that all came at the higher rate instituted at the time of the last increase.

Company

Ticker

No.

2/28

Div.

Pay

Ann.

EPS%

TTM

FYE

Name

Symbol

Yrs

Price

Yield

Date

Div.

Payout

P/E

Month

Landauer Inc.

(NYSE:LDR)

10

58.71

3.75

1/3/11

2.20

108.37

28.92

9

Campbell Soup Co.

(NYSE:CPB)

8

41.16

2.82

1/31/11

1.16

49.79

17.67

7

Columbia Sportswear

(NASDAQ:COLM)

7

55.53

1.58

6/2/11

0.88

30.14

19.02

12

Molson Coors Brewing

(NYSE:TAP)

5

44.21

2.90

6/15/11

1.28

52.67

18.19

12

Tower Group Inc.

(NASDAQ:TWGP)

6

18.65

4.02

6/24/11

0.75

57.25

14.24

12

Birner Dental Mgmt Svcs

(NASDAQ:BDMS)

9

17.10

5.15

7/8/11

0.88

123.94

24.08

12

NuStar Energy LP

(NYSE:NS)

12

51.04

8.58

8/12/11

4.38

n/a

n/a

12

Eagle Bancorp Montana

(NASDAQ:EBMT)

13

10.40

2.74

8/26/11

0.29

67.86

24.76

6

National Healthcare Corp.

(NYSEMKT:NHC)

9

46.37

2.59

9/1/11

1.20

34.38

13.29

12

Juniata Valley Financial

(OTCQB:JUVF)

22

17.75

4.96

9/1/11

0.88

102.33

20.64

12

National CineMedia Inc.

(NASDAQ:NCMI)

6

15.25

5.77

9/1/11

0.88

237.84

41.22

12

Cablevision Systems

(NYSE:CVC)

5

13.99

4.29

9/9/11

0.60

92.31

21.52

12

Kaydon Corp.

(NYSE:KDN)

6

25.01

3.20

10/3/11

0.80

2000.00

625.25

12

Frisch's Restaurants

(NYSEMKT:FRS)

6

19.02

3.36

10/10/11

0.64

51.20

15.22

5

Acme United Corp.

(NYSEMKT:ACU)

9

12.54

2.23

10/24/11

0.28

25.93

11.61

12

Natural Resource Ptnrs

(NYSE:NRP)

10

21.87

10.06

11/14/11

2.20

111.68

11.10

12

Westamerica Bancorp

(NASDAQ:WABC)

21

44.30

3.34

11/18/11

1.48

50.51

15.12

12

American Science&Eng.

(NASDAQ:ASEI)

5

62.54

3.20

12/1/11

2.00

94.79

29.64

3

WaterFurnace Renewable

(OTC:WFIFF)

10

16.29

5.89

12/1/11

0.96

103.23

17.52

12

United Bankshares Inc.

(NASDAQ:UBSI)

39

26.00

4.77

1/3/12

1.24

75.61

15.85

12

PennantPark Investment

(NASDAQ:PNNT)

6

11.60

9.66

1/3/12

1.12

86.15

8.92

9

TECO Energy Inc.

(NYSE:TE)

6

17.25

5.10

2/28/12

0.88

77.19

15.13

12

Buckeye Partners LP

(NYSE:BPL)

17

55.70

7.45

2/29/12

4.15

179.65

24.11

12

National Instruments Corp.

(NASDAQ:NATI)

10

30.08

1.86

3/5/12

0.56

76.71

41.21

12

Pitney Bowes Inc.

(NYSE:PBI)

30

13.10

11.45

3/12/12

1.50

69.44

6.06

12

Teche Holding Co.

(NYSEMKT:TSH)

11

39.00

3.74

3/30/12

1.46

35.18

9.40

9

Kinross Gold Corp.

(NYSE:KGC)

5

7.62

2.10

3/31/12

0.16

n/a

n/a

12

Communications Systems

(NASDAQ:JCS)

10

10.71

5.98

4/1/12

0.64

355.56

59.50

12

Constellation Software

(OTCPK:CNSWF)

6

116.65

3.43

4/2/12

4.00

117.65

34.31

12

TTM=Trailing Twelve Months; FYE=Fiscal Year End

As mentioned above, most of the companies listed have until the end of 2013 in order to "save" their streaks with a dividend increase. However, four Challengers have streaks tied to their Fiscal Years, which will act as their "deadline" for another increase. CPB and LDR are safe until July 2013 and September 2013, respectively, whereas ASEI and FRS have until March 2014 and May 2014, respectively, to declare increases. Other companies with different fiscal years have regular calendar-year streaks.

Note that companies with Pay Dates that are less than a year old have already declared an unchanged next dividend, so they will become 'overdue' with that dividend payment. Other companies will join this list as they pass the anniversaries of their previous increases without hiking their dividends. Since the determinant for inclusion revolves around the Dividend Payment, that Date is listed above, along with the Payout Ratio and the Price/Earnings ratio, two key indicators of a company's ability to increase the payout.

Assessing Risk

Some companies, such as REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) and MLPs (Master Limited Partnerships), are structured to pay out more than earnings per share, so we can't easily tell from seemingly high payout ratios or P/Es just how risky they are. Some seemingly alarming ratios might suggest great risk, but a look ahead at the estimated earnings per share for this year or next might prove a bit more comforting. Companies with shorter streaks may be more likely to allow them to lapse, since they haven't yet established long histories (or "cultures") of rewarding shareholders with growing dividends. As always, comments and suggestions are welcome below.

I don't usually include a FASTgraph for this series, but I decided to do so for Pitney Bowes, which has been to object of much speculation. Although its recent earnings report was considered a positive surprise, the company (for the first time) declared a fifth straight quarter of dividends at the same rate, making it overdue. While the current P/E might be considered attractively low, earnings are expected to continue their decline and the 10% yield may be difficult to sustain and the level of debt appears to be alarmingly high.

(click to enlarge)

Source: 29 'Overdue' Dividend Increases: Streaks In Jeopardy