It is a rare thing to find a page titled "Our Dividend Obsession" in the investor relations section of a company website. United Kingdom based power utility company SSE Plc. (SSEZY.PK) is that company. This stock trading as an ADR in the U.S. provides an attractive combination of current yield and dividend growth.
SSE Plc. was formerly called Scottish and Southern. The Scotland based power company is the second largest of the "Big 6" vertically integrated U.K. utility companies and the only one which is a publicly traded stock which just provides power and gas in the U.K. SSE is also the largest U.K. based renewable energy producer. The company has a current market cap of $21 billion. The ADR shares of SSE are fully sponsored and trade on the top-level QX OTC market. A significant number of large, foreign companies are electing to list on the lower cost OTC listing for their ADRs, including popular high yield favorite Telecom New Zealand (NZT) which now trades on the OTC markets under the symbol (NZTCY.PK).
SSE Plc. has increased the company's total annual dividend for 13 consecutive years. The goal is to increase the annual payout by the rate of inflation plus 2%. Each year SSE declares an interim dividend which goes ex-dividend January and is paid in late March. The much larger final dividend goes ex-dividend near the end of July to be paid in September. The 2012 final dividend will be 50.1 pence or 78 cents per ADR at the current GBP/USD exchange rate. The total 2012 dividend of 80.1 pence is 8% higher than the 2011 rate and puts the current dividend yield at 5.6%.
Challenges for SSE are a troubled regulatory environment in the U.K. and some problems with what will be the largest offshore wind power farm and a new purpose-built hydro-electric power plant. Both projects should be fully online in the second half of 2012. Net profits in 2012 for SSE were flat compared to 2011 and the coverage ratio dropped to 1.41 times the dividend, down from 1.5 times in 2011 on the higher dividend for this year. Company management forecasts profits to again grow in the 2013 and 2014 fiscal years, but investors can use the dividend coverage ratio to make sure the dividend will continue to flow.
SSE Plc. pays a higher yield than the typical U.S. utility company and has the unique dedication to the payment of an increasing dividend - that dedication is a driving force for the company. Add in the Chairman's great name - Lord Smith of Kelvin - and you have an attractive stock for income investors.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.