Investors chasing high yields around the globe can find many reasons to invest in the U.K. dividend-paying companies. Not only are the major U.K. dividend payers stable firms with solid balance sheets and long histories of dividend hikes, but, in many cases, they also boast dividends yields that are comparably higher than those paid in the United States. The dividend yield on FTSE All-share index currently averages 3.7%. This compares to a much lower average yield of 1.54% on Russell 2000 index, 2.14% on the S&P 500 index, and 2.7% on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The U.K. average yield on equities is 2.2 percentage points higher than the current yield on the U.S. 10-year Treasury.
The best places to look for attractive U.K. dividend plays are the recently published S&P 500 U.K. and Euro High Yield Dividend Aristocrats indices. In particular, the S&P 500 U.K. High Yield Dividend Aristocrats index consists of 30 highest yielding U.K. companies within the S&P Europe Broad Market Index. The index attempts to balance high dividend yield with dividend sustainability and growth. All index components have a history of increasing dividends for at least 10 consecutive years, a maximum forecast yield of 10%, and the dividend coverage by earnings.
Below is an overview of three index constituents trading as ADRs on U.S. registered exchanges. The three featured companies boast an average yield of 4.1%, almost double that of the S&P 500.
Vodafone Group (VOD) is a UK-based mobile communications company providing services to more than 400 million customers worldwide. It is the second largest mobile telecom operator in the world. The company owns a 45% stake in Verizon Wireless through a joint venture with U.S. mobile telecom giant, Verizon Communications (VZ). Vodafone's market capitalization is $140 billion. The company pays a dividend yielding 5.0% on a payout ratio of 67%. Its peers Deutsche Telekom (DTEGY.PK), Telefonica (TEF), and AT&T (T) pay yields of 8.3%, 14.4%, and 5.0%, respectively.
The company increased its dividend at an average rate of 14% per year over the past seven years. Over the past five years, Vodafone's EPS grew at an average rate of 4.1% per year. Analysts forecast that EPS growth will average 8.6% per year for the next five years. The company has just acquired assets of Telstra, expanding operations in New Zealand. In terms of valuation, the company's stock is trading at a discount relative to its peers on average. The stock is changing hands at $28.2 a share, 5.4% higher over the last 12 months. Guru fund manager Boykin Curry (Eagle Capital Management-check out its top picks) and billionaire David Einhorn are big fans of the stock.
British American Tobacco (BTI) is a $101 billion tobacco giant selling popular brands such as Dunhill, Kent, Lucky Strike, Pall Mall, and Vogue. The company pays a dividend yield of 3.9% on a payout ratio of 83%. The company's peers Imperial Tobacco Group (ITYBY) and Philip Morris International (PM) yield 4.3%, and 3.4%, respectively. British American Tobacco boosted its dividend at a 13.3% annual rate over the past five years, while its EPS grew close to 10% per year over the same period. The company's EPS is forecast to accelerate to 11.3% annual rate for the next five years. Despite the headwinds from higher excise taxes and a trend of smoking bans, the company has been able to grow revenues and EPS, given the strength of its brands and fair pricing power. On a forward P/E basis, the company's stock is valued almost on par with the tobacco industry. The shares are changing hands at $103.60 a share, up 13% over the past year. Billionaires Jim Simons and D. E. Shaw hold large stakes in the company.
Pearson PLC (PSO) is a $16 billion company engaged in education, business information, and consumer publishing. This world's leader in learning services and the owner of the Financial Times pays a dividend yield of 3.5% on a payout ratio of 37%. Its rivals The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. (MHP) and Reed Elsevier NV (ENL) pay yields of 2.3% and 4.5%, respectively. Scholastic Corporation pays a dividend yield of 1.8%, while Apollo Group (APOL) does not pay any dividends. The company raised its dividend and EPS at average annual rates of 3.3% and 17.8%, respectively, over the past five years. The EPS is forecast to expand at a moderate 6% per year for the next five years. The company has been a pioneer in digital printing and has ventured into an international expansion, including China. The stock is trading at a discount to the publishing industry. Trading at $19.40 a share, the stock is up 1.6% over the past 12 months. Billionaires Jim Simons and Israel Englander are among investors in the company.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.