On October 23, 2015, I wrote an article titled “Retirees: I Did Not Buy IBM to Sell; It’s about the Dividend Income Stupid.” At the time I published the article, I was long International Business Machine (NYSE:IBM) and remain long today. With the article, I attempted to illustrate why I was including IBM in retirement portfolios. As the title so brashly stated, it was about the dividend income. Stated more directly, I was investing in IBM to augment the yield of my dividend growth portfolio based on the company’s quality and financial strength.
Moreover, I talked about the many varied investing strategies that investors could implement. Specific to my IBM investment, it’s important to emphasize that I intended to hold the company for many years to come, and still do. Therefore, I am not too concerned about short-term price volatility, simply because I have no intention of selling anyway. Additionally, I had, or have, no delusions about IBM generating significant short-term capital gains. In fact, I was confident that I would have to be patient on the capital appreciation front, but as I stated in the article:
“A Growing Dividend Income Stream Was My Purpose for Investing In IBM
I have been and continue to be aggressively adding IBM into retirement portfolios. However, even upon my first foray into the company, I was never expecting substantial capital appreciation, at least over the short to intermediate term. Instead, my attitude about investing in this company was based solely on the opportunity to receive a safe, above-average and growing dividend yield. On that basis, IBM has proven to be a resounding success because, as I expected, IBM's dividend income has steadily increased.”
Here, I would also add that dividends are paid on the number of shares I own and not based on the current market price. This is simply another reason why I am not too concerned with price volatility. It will be many years from now before I decide that it is time to sell IBM, unless I truly come to believe that the company's financial strength has deteriorated to the point where I can no longer trust its dividend. However, at this point I have no indication that this might be happening. In fact, I believe the Red Hat (RHT) acquisition gives me confidence that IBM's fundamentals may actually grow again at some point in the future.
Moreover, in addition to my dividend growth objective, my contentment to continue to hold IBM was also predicated on its financial strength. Simply stated, I considered, and still consider, IBM a company of formidable resources and immense financial strength. I understood that it had been struggling to adapt to the current revolution in technology, but I felt strongly that the company would both survive and endure. The following excerpt from the 2015 article illustrates my confidence:
“Additionally, when it comes to determining the safety associated with investing in a stock, determining whether it possesses superior financial strength is an obvious and commonly utilized approach. However, there are additional important safety measurements that are subtler, less understood and often either ignored or their importance not given the credit deserved.”
These subtler safety measurements are an above-average, but sustainable, current dividend yield and sound valuation, or better yet, significant undervaluation. This last point is critically important because I believe any issues that IBM has are already (and have been for some time) priced into the stock. Stated more directly, I believe that the company is trading at a significant discount to its intrinsic value.
Moreover, I believe that even if IBM continues to grow at low rates, it is still undervalued. Because even a company with no growth is worth more than what IBM, with its significant resources, is currently trading at. To expand on why I am not worried about the short-term or current low stock price, it is simply because I do not believe in selling anything - common stock or otherwise - for less than I believe it’s worth. Therefore, I do expect IBM to provide me substantial at best, and more than adequate at worst, long-term capital appreciation. Thus, as long as the dividend continues to grow, I am more than willing to patiently wait for future capital appreciation to occur.
“IBM's Financial Strength
IBM was founded in 1910 and incorporated in the state of New York in 1911. The company took on the iconic IBM name in 1924. Consequently, IBM has been an American technology stalwart even before technology became cool. As such, IBM has been long renowned as a blue-chip dividend growth stock. So much so that legendary investor Peter Lynch once quipped "no one ever gets fired for buying IBM."
As a side note, several people commenting on my recent article on IBM suggested that I misused the above quote. They corrected me by stating that Peter Lynch said that no IT manager ever got fired for purchasing IBM. That may be true, however, my quote was referencing what Peter said on page 44 in his best-selling book One Up on Wall Street as follows: “there is an unwritten rule on Wall Street: you’ll never lose your job losing your clients money in IBM.”
Credit rating agencies have recently been evaluating IBM’s credit ratings. However, the company continues to receive investment grade ratings as follows:
S&P, based on the Red Hat acquisition announcement, lowered IBM’s credit rating one notch from A+ to A.
Moody’s rates IBM A1 with a possible downgrade alert as of October 29, 2018.
From my contrary perspective on IBM, my belief in the company’s formidable financial strength was validated by its announcement of the Red Hat merger/acquisition. Most pundits and many investors suggest that IBM dramatically overpaid for Red Hat. I disagree that it overpaid, and later, in the video associated with this article, I will offer a case that the acquisition was made at a fair or reasonable valuation. This is important to me because it also validates my original reason for purchasing IBM stock - it was all about the growing dividend!
The following excerpt from the press release on the company’s website contributes to back my confidence that its management team will continue to support and grow the dividend (emphasis added is mine):
The acquisition of Red Hat reinforces IBM's high-value model. It will accelerate IBM's revenue growth, gross margin and free cash flow within 12 months of closing. It also will support a solid and growing dividend.
The company will continue with a disciplined financial policy and is committed to maintaining strong investment grade credit ratings. The company will target a leverage profile consistent with a mid to high single A credit rating. The company intends to suspend its share repurchase program in 2020 and 2021.
At signing, the company has ample cash, credit and bridge lines to secure the transaction financing. The company intends to close the transaction through a combination of cash and debt.
The acquisition has been approved by the boards of directors of both IBM and Red Hat. It is subject to Red Hat shareholder approval. It also is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. It is expected to close in the latter half of 2019.”
F.A.S.T. Graphs Analyze-Out-Loud Video: Why I Believe IBM Paid a Fair Price for Red Hat
I am a long-term investor, and I am an investor who invests according to specific goals and objectives. I am not a short-term trader, I am not obsessed about beating the market, I am not trying to time the market, and I am not concerned about short-term price volatility. Instead, I am very concerned about fundamental attributes and financial strength.
More importantly, I am not attempting to convince anyone that they should be investing in IBM. Instead, with all the articles I’ve written on the company, I simply have been sharing why I personally have been investing in this blue-chip stalwart. It’s about earning a predictable, safe and growing dividend income stream off the shares of IBM that have been purchased.
Moreover, I have no intention of selling the stock, so as previously stated, I’m not really interested in what the price is currently doing short term. On the other hand, I am concerned about what the price might be 5 or 10 years in the future, when either I, or perhaps my heirs, may be desirous of selling the stock. In the meantime, I’m very content to watch my dividend income grow and expect that to continue into the foreseeable future. Long IBM for its dividend growth.
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Disclosure: I am/we are long IBM. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.