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In compiling the Dividend Champions list 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 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 increases, which shows how long it's been since each company last raised its dividend. 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.

The good news is that the current Dividend-Streak "Death Watch" has nearly come to an end. You may recall from last month's article that 11 companies were facing their last chance to "save" their dividend streaks. Of those, seven have been deleted due to a dividend "freeze" (having paid the same total amount in 2013 as in 2012) and three companies - Columbia Sportswear (NASDAQ:COLM), United Bankshares (NASDAQ:UBSI), and Westamerica Bancorp (NASDAQ:WABC) - declared dividend increases, extending their streaks. That leaves only Molson Coors, which I suspect will be deleted.

The second "group" has slightly longer before potential deletion, since their streaks are based on a fiscal year that ends in early 2014. (ASEI has until March 2014 to declare an increase.) The remaining companies paid at least one lower amount in 2012 (before their most recent increase), so they'll automatically pay more in total in 2013, unless they cut their dividend, which means their streaks are "safe" until the end of 2014. However, there are two exceptions: Both Nippon Telephone & Telegraph and NTT DoCoMo face deletion if their total 2013 dividends (in U.S. dollars) are lower than what was paid in 2012. The second of their semi-annual payments has yet to be determined, but the first payments were lower than in 2012, so there's a good chance that both companies will be deleted.

Streak will end without increase by end of calendar 2013

Company

Ticker

No.

10/31

Div.

Pay

Qtly

Ann.

EPS%

TTM

FYE

Name

Symbol

Yrs

Price

Yield

Date

Sch

Div.

Payout

P/E

Month

Molson Coors Brewing B

(NYSE:TAP)

5

54.00

2.37

6/15/11

C15

1.28

41.03

17.31

12

Streak will end without increase by end of fiscal 2014

Company

Ticker

No.

10/31

Div.

Pay

Qtly

Ann.

EPS%

TTM

FYE

Name

Symbol

Yrs

Price

Yield

Date

Sch

Div.

Payout

P/E

Month

American Science&Eng.

(NASDAQ:ASEI)

5

65.78

3.04

12/1/11

C01

2.00

90.91

29.90

3

Streak will end without increase by end of calendar 2014

Company

Ticker

No.

10/31

Div.

Pay

Qtly

Ann.

EPS%

TTM

FYE

Name

Symbol

Yrs

Price

Yield

Date

Sch

Div.

Payout

P/E

Month

Communications Sys. *

(NASDAQ:JCS)

11

11.41

5.61

4/1/12

A01

0.64

177.78

31.69

12

Constellation Software *

(OTCPK:CNSWF)

7

185.73

2.15

4/2/12

A02

4.00

94.79

44.01

12

Teekay LNG Partners LP *

(NYSE:TGP)

9

41.50

6.51

5/14/12

B14

2.70

114.89

17.66

12

Boardwalk Pipeline Part. *

(NYSE:BWP)

8

29.95

7.11

5/17/12

B17

2.13

171.77

24.15

12

TESSCO Technologies *

(NASDAQ:TESS)

5

35.43

2.03

5/23/12

B23

0.72

33.49

16.48

3

Navios Maritime Partners *

(NYSE:NMM)

6

15.63

11.32

8/13/12

B13

1.77

114.94

10.15

12

Enbridge Energy Partners *

(NYSE:EEP)

7

30.27

7.18

8/14/12

B14

2.17

452.92

63.06

12

1st Source Corp. *

(NASDAQ:SRCE)

26

31.38

2.17

8/15/12

B15

0.68

32.38

14.94

12

Intel Corp. *

(NASDAQ:INTC)

10

24.47

3.68

9/1/12

C01

0.90

48.65

13.23

12

Muncy Bank Financial

(OTCQB:MYBF)

12

43.44

1.84

9/14/12

C14

0.80

n/a

n/a

12

Best Buy Corp. *

(NYSE:BBY)

11

42.80

1.59

10/2/12

A02

0.68

n/a

n/a

2

Farmers and Merchants *

(OTCQB:FMAO)

9

21.25

3.76

10/20/12

A20

0.80

39.02

10.37

12

Bowl America Class A

(NYSEMKT:BWL.A)

41

14.39

4.59

11/14/12

B14

0.66

108.20

23.59

6

Eagle Financial Services *

(OTCQB:EFSI)

27

21.25

3.58

11/16/12

B16

0.76

37.44

10.47

12

NuStar GP Holdings LLC *

(NYSE:NSH)

8

24.55

8.88

11/16/12

B16

2.18

192.92

21.73

12

Senior Housing Prop. *

(NYSE:SNH)

10

24.64

6.33

11/20/12

B20

1.56

205.26

32.42

12

Nippon Tele&Tele

(NYSE:NTT)

11

26.10

3.54

12/3/12

JnDe

0.92

40.56

11.45

3

NTT DoCoMo Inc.

(NYSE:DCM)

11

15.87

4.54

12/3/12

JnDe

0.72

59.50

13.12

3

Perrigo Company *

(NYSE:PRGO)

11

137.89

0.26

12/17/12

C17

0.36

7.69

29.46

6

DeVry Inc. *

(NYSE:DV)

8

35.90

0.95

12/19/12

JlDe

0.34

17.62

18.60

6

Erie Indemnity Co. *

(NASDAQ:ERIE)

23

71.82

3.30

12/21/12

C21

2.37

77.70

23.55

12

ConAgra Foods Inc.

(NYSE:CAG)

6

31.81

3.14

12/24/12

C24

1.00

63.29

20.13

5

* Indicates that No. of Years (in streak) now includes 2013 (by default)

TTM=Trailing Twelve Months; FYE=Fiscal Year End

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 (next) 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.

Source: 'Overdue' Dividend Increases: Streaks In Jeopardy