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Not many healthcare companies pay dividends. Among the 313 healthcare companies that are included in the Russell 3000 index, only 59 companies pay dividends. The average annual dividend yield of these companies is 1.92% while the median is 1.63%. PDL BioPharma Inc (NASDAQ:PDLI) has the highest yield at 7.55%, and Cooper Companies Inc. (NYSE:COO) has the lowest yield at 0.06%.

In this article, I tried to determine which of the Russell 3000 healthcare companies is the most attractive for dividend-seeking investors.

Russell 3000 Index

Description from Russell Investments:

The Russell 3000 Index measures the performance of the largest 3000 U.S. companies representing approximately 98% of the investable U.S. equity market. The Russell 3000 Index is constructed to provide a comprehensive, unbiased, and stable barometer of the broad market and is completely reconstituted annually to ensure new and growing equities are reflected.

I maintain that besides healthy dividend yield, low payout ratio and consistent dividend growth are the most crucial factors for dividend-seeking investors. In addition, since dividend investors try to avoid too much risk, The Sharpe ratio, which measures the ratio of reward to risk, is also extremely important.

Explanation of Sharpe Ratio

A ratio developed by Nobel laureate William F. Sharpe to measure risk-adjusted performance. The Sharpe ratio is calculated by subtracting the risk-free rate - such as that of the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond - from the rate of return for a portfolio and dividing the result by the standard deviation of the portfolio returns.

The Sharpe ratio tells us whether a portfolio's returns are due to smart investment decisions or a result of excess risk. This measurement is very useful because although one portfolio or fund can reap higher returns than its peers, it is only a good investment if those higher returns do not come with too much additional risk. The greater a portfolio's Sharpe ratio, the better its risk-adjusted performance has been. A negative Sharpe ratio indicates that a risk-less asset would perform better than the security being analyzed.

I have screened the Russell 3000 healthcare companies that pay dividends according to the above-mentioned principles. The screen's method requires all stocks to comply with all following demands:

  1. The payout ratio is less than 100%.
  2. The annual rate of dividend growth over the past five years is greater than zero.
  3. The forward dividend rate is equal or greater than the trailing dividend rate.
  4. Sharpe ratio is greater than 1.0.

Furthermore, I ranked all the stocks that complied with all the required demands according to a formula that I constructed, which gave 35% weight to the yield, 35% to the payout ratio, 20% to the dividend growth and 10% to the Sharpe ratio.

In order to find out how such a ranking formula would have performed during the last 14 years, I ran a back-test, which is available by the Portfolio123's screener. For the back-test, I took the 406 Russell 3000 companies that pay dividends and comply with all the above-mentioned demands.

The back-test results are shown in the chart below. For the back-test, I divided the 406 companies into ten groups according to their ranking. The highest ranked group with the ranking score of 90-100, which is shown by the dark green column in the chart, has given by far the best return-- an average annual return of almost 21%. Also the second and the third group (scored: 80-90 and 70-80) have given superior returns. This brings me to the conclusion that my ranking system is useful.

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I used the Portfolio123's powerful screener and ranking system to perform the search. All the data for this article were taken from Portfolio123. After running this screen on June 09, 2013, I discovered twenty healthcare stocks.

The table below presents the twenty companies in the order of their rank.

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The table below presents the dividend yield, the payout ratio, the annual rate of dividend growth over the past five years and the Sharpe ratio for the twenty companies.

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The table below shows the most influential parameters, for dividend-seeking investors, for the six best ranked Russell 3000 healthcare companies according to my criteria.

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Chart: finviz.com

BAX Dividend Chart

BAX Dividend data by YCharts

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Chart: finviz.com

ABC Dividend Chart

ABC Dividend data by YCharts

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Chart: finviz.com

AET Dividend Chart

AET Dividend data by YCharts

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Chart: finviz.com

STE Dividend Chart

STE Dividend data by YCharts

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Chart: finviz.com

BDX Dividend Chart

BDX Dividend data by YCharts

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Chart: finviz.com

MDT Dividend Chart

MDT Dividend data by YCharts

Conclusion

Which of the six healthcare companies is the most attractive for dividend-seeking investors? It is not easy to determine. All six stocks look quite attractive to dividend-seeking investors due to their solid dividend and their long-term track record of consistent and rising dividend payments. Baxter International Inc (NYSE:BAX) has the highest yield among the six companies, and its other valuation parameters are quite good. AmerisourceBergen Corp (NYSE:ABC) has the highest Sharpe ratio, but its dividend yield is only 1.59%. Aetna (NYSE:AET) has the lowest payout ratio and had the highest dividend growth in the past five years, but its dividend yield is the lowest among the six companies. STERIS Corp (NYSE:STE) has a low payout ratio and had high dividend growth rate, but its dividend yield is only 1.68%. Becton, Dickinson (NYSE:BDX) has a high Sharpe ratio of 3.13, but it has the highest debt-to-equity ratio among the six companies. Medtronic Inc (NYSE:MDT) has the lowest EPS growth prospects and the highest PEG ratio among the six companies. Considering all these factors, Baxter International Inc, the highest ranked company according to my criteria, is the most attractive healthcare company to dividend investor.

Source: Which Of The Russell 3000 Healthcare Companies Is Most Attractive To Dividend Investors?