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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 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. This month, I've divided the listing into two groups, which I've labeled "Red Flag" and "Yellow Flag." The first group consists of 21 companies that will be deleted if they fail to pay an increased dividend by the end of 2012. The second group of eight companies has a little more leeway, since their latest increases came late enough in 2011 that this year's total payments will exceed last year's as long as no reduction is announced. Note that both groups have been sorted by the Quarterly Schedule column. Optimistically, this would be the order in which they might announce increases in the third or fourth quarter in order to save their streaks. From a more pessimistic standpoint, this is the order in which the "Red Flag" group would see their streaks end in the fourth quarter - the Dividend-Streak "Death Watch" - if they fail to hike their payouts. Any increase by a company in either group will remove that company from this "probationary" listing.

"Red Flag"

Stock

No.

4/30

Div

LY%

Pay

Qtly

Ann.

Payout

TTM

Company

Symbol

Yrs

Price

Yield

Inc.

Date

Sch

Div.

%Ratio

P/E

Greif Inc. A

(GEF)

7

53.64

3.13

10.53

7/1/10

A01

1.68

50.30

16.06

Astro-Med Inc.

(ALOT)

7

8.45

3.31

16.67

4/2/10

A02

0.28

66.67

20.12

Landauer Inc.

(LDR)

9

52.72

4.17

2.23

1/3/11

A03

2.20

88.00

21.09

PG&E Corp.

(PCG)

6

44.18

4.12

8.33

4/15/10

A15

1.82

86.26

20.94

Sanderson Farms Inc.

(SAFM)

9

51.61

1.32

13.33

10/19/10

A19

0.68

n/a

n/a

Campbell Soup Co.

(CPB)

7

33.83

3.43

5.45

1/31/11

A31

1.16

49.79

14.52

Bowl America Class A

(BWL.A)

39

13.15

4.87

3.23

2/8/11

B08

0.64

206.45

42.42

Eagle Financial Svcs.

(OTCQB:EFSI)

25

21.05

3.42

5.88

11/15/10

B15

0.72

48.98

14.32

1st Source Corp.

(SRCE)

24

22.69

2.82

6.67

11/15/10

B16

0.64

31.53

11.18

Lake Shore Bancorp

(LSBK)

6

10.00

2.80

16.67

2/22/11

B22

0.28

43.08

15.38

United Community Bp.

(UCBA)

5

5.50

8.00

10.00

5/28/10

B28

0.44

4400.00

550.00

Murphy Oil Corp.

(MUR)

15

54.97

2.00

10.00

9/1/10

C01

1.10

28.95

14.47

Avon Products Inc.

(AVP)

22

21.60

4.26

4.55

3/1/11

C01

0.92

77.31

18.15

Strayer Education Inc.

(STRA)

8

98.68

4.05

33.33

12/10/10

C10

4.00

49.32

12.17

Tennant Company

(TNC)

39

44.30

1.53

21.43

12/15/10

C15

0.68

40.72

26.53

Stanley Black & Decker

(SWK)

44

73.16

2.24

20.59

3/22/11

C22

1.64

42.49

18.95

Guess? Inc.

(GES)

6

29.28

2.73

25.00

12/23/10

C23

0.80

27.87

10.20

Knight Transportation

(KNX)

7

16.42

1.46

20.00

6/25/10

C25

0.24

32.00

21.89

First Capital Inc.

(FCAP)

10

21.46

3.54

5.56

9/30/10

C30

0.76

52.78

14.90

Washington REIT

(WRE)

39

29.55

5.87

0.29

12/30/10

C30

1.74

n/a

n/a

Citizens Holding Co.

(CIZN)

11

18.75

4.69

4.76

12/31/10

C31

0.88

61.54

13.11

"Yellow Flag"

Stock

No.

4/30

Div

LY%

Pay

Qtly

Ann.

Payout

TTM

Company

Symbol

Yrs

Price

Yield

Inc.

Date

Sch

Div.

%Ratio

P/E

Greif Inc. B

(GEF.B)

8

54.89

4.59

1.61

4/1/11

A01

2.52

75.22

16.39

American Greetings

(AM-OLD)

8

16.00

3.75

7.14

4/21/11

A21

0.60

30.15

8.04

StoneMor Partners LP

(STON)

7

26.42

8.86

1.74

5/16/11

B16

2.34

n/a

n/a

American States Water

(AWR)

57

36.44

3.07

7.69

6/1/11

C01

1.12

50.45

16.41

National Healthcare

(NHC)

8

45.60

2.63

7.14

9/1/11

C01

1.20

29.70

11.29

Columbia Sportswear

(COLM)

6

47.10

1.87

10.00

6/2/11

C02

0.88

31.65

16.94

Tower Group Inc.

(TWGP)

5

21.58

3.48

50.00

6/24/11

C24

0.75

51.02

14.68

First Financial Corp.

(THFF)

24

30.00

3.13

2.17

7/1/11

JaJl

0.94

33.22

10.60

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 the next dividend payment. Other companies will join this list (as "Yellow Flag" companies) 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 or next might provide a bit of comfort. 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: Dividends In Doubt: 29 'Overdue' Increases