The 4 Best Professional Services Dividends of the S&P 500

Includes: EBAY, IRM, PBI, RRD, WM
by: Jefferson Starship

The other day I received a new pair of running shoes in the mail that I had ordered off of eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY). I was surprised to find that they were packaged by Pitney Bowes (NYSE:PBI) since I had only just learned what this company does in an article written by my colleague, found here. He insists that they are an excellent company for an "everyday investor." I don’t know what he means by this but I would generally encourage investors to follow the tenet of understanding what you are investing in.

To my surprise, Pitney Bowes also came up on top of a list of S&P 500 companies with the highest dividend yields in the commercial and professional services industry. Bloomberg releases this list at the end of every month and if utilized correctly it can be extremely helpful. What’s odd with this particular industry is that the companies listed are not necessarily competitors, as was the case with the telecom industry.

With that in mind, I will go over the top four on the list since after that there is a substantial drop below the infamous 3% yield mark. And again, any of these companies can be purchased without a fear of over allocation since they are not direct competitors, assuming you are not already over invested in any one of these sectors.

Pitney Bowes – Based out of Connecticut, Pitney Bowes focuses on improving their clients’ mail performance. They also work in business solutions and workflow management. It is important to note that they are not just mail, because they have been buying up companies left and right and that has enabled them to adapt to a more digital world. What you need to know is that this company has an extremely diverse catalog of products and services and this decreases risk through diversification, like a portfolio.

More importantly is that Pitney Bowes’ dividend has been increasing annually and is currently set at 6.49%. The industry average for commercial and professional services is 3.11% so this is more than double and is probably the only reason why that figure is over 3. They have not yet recovered from the recession and who’s to know if they even will. Businesses have obviously been cutting spending on non-essentials and with the rise of social media, direct mail is not as necessary any more. They have traded in the $20-$25 range since the beginning of 2009 and their earnings have not been great since, which explains the lack of price growth. The fact of the matter is that 6.5% is not a enough to warrant a purchase of a stock that may not grow, but the dividends have been rising and if the economy improves, Pitney Bowes may lag behind it.

RR Donnelley & Sons (NASDAQ:RRD) – I know at the outset of this article I mentioned that these companies are not competitors and though RR Donnelley and Pitney Bowes may not be directly such, they are close enough that I would not advise owning both. Like Pitney Bowes, RR Donnelley offers many products and services, so much so that it is basis of their 2010 annual report. Their goal, similar to bundling in the sales world, is to get customers on the hook and then sell them a bunch of other services (that save the client money) while they reel them in. They are more concentrated in the realm of print media (catalogs, books, etc.) and not in the mailing of such, but that service is offered as well.

Financially, RR Donnelley saw a deeper trough than most, dropping from $45 to $6. They have battled back to $20 and are still in a technical upward trend. Their dividend is frozen at $0.26 per quarter but it is still a 5.3% yield, much better than the industry average.

Waste Management (NYSE:WM) – This company does not need too much explanation but what you should know is that they service roughly 20 million Americans, which is certainly substantial. One thing I do not understand is their new green initiative, or more specifically, how it increases their bottom line. Perhaps it garners some customers, in California or Oregon.

Waste Management increases their dividend yield annually, generally by 8%. Their current yield is 3.67%, which is pretty generous. Price-wise they have been on a massive two year run, fully making up recessionary lows. Their 5 year price to earnings growth and beta suggest that price appreciation will be slow and steady, but the growing dividend yield makes for a decent pick up.

Iron Mountain (NYSE:IRM) – Iron Mountain just instituted their dividend in April of 2010. The recent increase has brought their yield to just under 3%. However they have the lowest payout ratio on the list, which is also slightly below the industry average of 56%. Iron Mountain works in document management solutions. This includes hosting, imagining, recording, backing, recovering and even shredding. It has been suggested that paper is a dying industry and Iron Mountain’s digitalization is a step in the right direction. They are a relatively small company but there has been some recent earnings growth and a significant rise in price from $20 to $34. This puts them pretty close to the peak of their $52 week range and it will be interesting to see if they can break through their pre-recession prices.

This list goes to show several things to the everyday investor. The first is that companies with fewer growth prospects can offer up higher yield because there may not be anywhere for that money to go within the business. Secondly, yields can be misleading. Pitney Bowes and RR Donnelley each offer substantial payouts but only the former has been raising their dividend annually. And lastly, even companies that have been growing can offer nice growing yields, like Waste Management. Of the four companies on this list, they would be my pick for a safer sure pick.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.