Technology companies have always been known as growth engines that continually reinvest their profits into new cutting edge features, products or services that they believe will increase value for shareholders. However, a new trend is emerging among several large-cap tech stocks that reward shareholders through share buybacks and returning cash in the form of dividends. A new report out by Barclays notes that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Oracle Corporation (ORCL) and Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO) are leading this wave, and based on investor response, they expect that several other companies will soon follow suit.
I have endearingly labeled these companies the "technology value sector" which typically represents larger, established names with strong balance sheets and low debt ratios. Many of these companies have more cash than they know what to do with, which is why they are starting to return their profits to shareholders. This in turn creates a better value proposition for owning the stock and boosts investor demand.
I expect this new value proposition for technology stocks will directly benefit dividend oriented exchange-traded funds such as the First Trust NASDAQ Technology Dividend Index Fund (NASDAQ:TDIV). This ETF includes nearly 80 dividend paying companies in the technology and telecommunications industries that have declared a distribution in the last 12 months.
The index that the fund is based off of uses a modified dividend weighting methodology to determine the allocation of the underlying holdings. The current 30-day SEC yield on TDIV is 2.62%, which doesn't seem significant until you compare it to the Technology Select Sector SPDR (NYSEARCA:XLK) that is paying a yield of only 1.69%. The top 3 holdings in TDIV include Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC), and Cisco Systems.
The performance comparison between the XLK and TDIV is also a very compelling reason for investors to consider this fund. The total year-to-date return of TDIV is 18.10% compared to 12.08% for XLK through 5/20/13. This is even slightly better than the returns of the more broadly focused iShares Select Dividend ETF (NYSEARCA:DVY) which has gained 17.93% over that same time period. DVY only has an approximate 5.65% allocation to technology and telecommunication stocks, although its 3.58% yield is quite a bit higher.
It is important to note that TDIV is still a highly concentrated sector position and therefore should be evaluated within that context. It will most likely not take the place of a core position in your portfolio such as DVY which has a much more diversified dividend makeup. In addition, TDIV has more exposure to small and mid-cap companies than the large-cap weighted XLK which may offer investors more balanced exposure to the technology sector.
I would expect that as the holdings within TDIV are analyzed on a quarterly basis that new stocks will appear based on this shift in strategy towards cash distributions. Two of the most notable technology companies that are missing from the dividend index that Barclays anticipates will boost its cash returns to shareholders are Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Visa Inc. (NYSE:V).
Investors are still hungrily seeking out equity income funds for their portfolio as they balance the need for capital appreciation with income generating opportunities. I believe that TDIV represents an excellent opportunity for both growth and income investors, but with the market on its highs I would wait for a pullback to enter the position. This will increase your odds of a successful long-term investment theme in dividend-paying technology stocks.
Disclosure: I am long DVY. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.
Additional disclosure: David Fabian, Fabian Capital Management, and/or its clients may hold positions in the ETFs and mutual funds mentioned above. The commentary does not constitute individualized investment advice. The opinions offered herein are not personalized recommendations to buy, sell or hold securities.