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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.

As we get closer to year-end, the top of the listing acts as a dividend streak “death watch,” since it includes companies that will be deleted if they fail to announce an increase in 2011. I've labeled that group as “Red Flag” and the remaining companies (not subject to immediate deletion) as “Yellow Flag.”

"Red Flag"

No.

10/31

%

Pay

Ann.

Payout

TTM

Company

Symbol

Yrs

Price

Yield

Inc.

Date

Div.

%Ratio

P/E

Gas Natural Inc.

(NYSEMKT:EGAS)

5

11.00

4.91

12.50

4/30/09

0.54

62.79

12.79

United Bankshares

(NASDAQ:UBSI)

37

23.74

5.05

3.45

1/4/10

1.20

72.73

14.39

"Yellow Flag"

No.

10/31

%

Pay

Ann.

Payout

TTM

Company

Symbol

Yrs

Price

Yield

Inc.

Date

Div.

%Ratio

P/E

PPL Corp.

(NYSE:PPL)

9

29.37

4.77

1.45

4/1/10

1.40

59.07

12.39

Astro-Med Inc.

(NASDAQ:ALOT)

7

7.98

3.51

16.67

4/2/10

0.28

73.68

21.00

PG&E Corp.

(NYSE:PCG)

6

42.90

4.24

8.33

4/15/10

1.82

67.41

15.89

United Community Bp

(NASDAQ:UCBA)

5

5.73

7.68

10.00

5/28/10

0.44

n/a

n/a

Weyco Group Inc.

(NASDAQ:WEYS)

29

23.70

2.70

6.67

7/1/10

0.64

52.89

19.59

Knight Transportation

(NYSE:KNX)

7

15.20

1.58

20.00

6/25/10

0.24

34.78

22.03

Pharmaceutical Prod*

(NASDAQ:PPDI)

6

32.99

1.82

5.71

6/29/10

0.60

41.96

23.07

Universal Health Rlty

(NYSE:UHT)

22

37.97

6.37

0.83

6/30/10

2.42

200.00

31.38

Greif Inc. A

(NYSE:GEF)

7

44.78

3.75

10.53

7/1/10

1.68

34.36

9.16

Communications Sys.

(NASDAQ:JCS)

8

16.48

3.64

7.14

7/1/10

0.60

40.54

11.14

Inergy LP**

(NRGY)

10

28.71

9.82

1.44

8/13/10

2.82

343.90

35.01

Murphy Oil Corp.

(NYSE:MUR)

15

55.37

1.99

10.00

9/1/10

1.10

22.31

11.23

First Capital Inc.

(NASDAQ:FCAP)

10

18.00

4.22

5.56

9/30/10

0.76

54.29

12.86

Corporate Office Prop

(NYSE:OFC)

13

24.25

6.80

5.10

10/15/10

1.65

-275.00

-40.42

Sanderson Farms Inc.

(NASDAQ:SAFM)

9

49.50

1.37

13.33

10/19/10

0.68

-25.66

-18.68

Eagle Financial Svcs.

(OTCQB:EFSI)

25

16.75

4.30

5.88

11/15/10

0.72

77.42

18.01

1st Source Corp.

(NASDAQ:SRCE)

21

24.04

2.66

6.67

11/15/10

0.64

36.36

13.66

CMS Energy Corp.

(NYSE:CMS)

5

20.82

4.03

40.00

11/30/10

0.84

55.63

13.79

Strayer Education Inc.

(NASDAQ:STRA)

8

85.21

4.69

33.33

12/10/10

4.00

41.07

8.75

Tennant Company

(NYSE:TNC)

39

38.69

1.76

21.43

12/15/10

0.68

34.34

19.54

Washington REIT

(NYSE:WRE)

39

28.96

5.99

0.29

12/30/10

1.74

394.32

65.82

Campbell Soup Co.

(NYSE:CPB)

7

33.25

3.49

5.45

1/31/11

1.16

47.93

13.74

*Has agreed to be acquired

**Plans to split into two companies

Note that companies with Pay Dates that are less than a year old have already declared an unchanged fourth-quarter 2011 dividend, so they will become 'overdue' by paying the same rate for a fifth straight quarter. Other companies will join this list as they pass the anniversary of their previous increase without hiking the dividend. 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 much from seemingly high payout ratios or P/Es. Some alarming Payout Ratios and/or P/Es, like those at Sanderson Farms, might suggest great risk, but a look ahead at the estimated earnings per share for this year and next might provide a bit of comfort. As always, comments and suggestions are welcome below.

Source: 2 Dividend Streaks On 'Death Watch' And 22 More Currently 'Overdue'