The 3 Most Embarrassing Dividend Stocks in the Dow

By Markets Fool.com


Image source: Nike.

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The Dow Jones Industrials have a strong reputation for being among the strongest blue-chip stocks in the market. One way that the Dow stands out from other indexes is that every one of the average's 30 components pays a dividend. However, not all of those dividends are as high as they could be, and in particular, three stocks lag behind their peers in failing to embrace the dividend-investing philosophy fully. Below, we'll look at three Dow stocks whose dividend yields are downright embarrassing.

Walt Disney , 1.4% dividend yield
The House of Mouse is one of the best-known stocks in the market, and no one can deny the success that the company has had over time. Key acquisitions on the movie-studio front have included Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm, and the recent reopening of the Star Wars franchise promises further blockbusters as far into the future as the eye can see. The cable-cutting trend has some analysts more worried about Disney's media-network division, especially the sports giant ESPN. Yet theme parks and merchandise continue to help overall results, and most investors still expect the company to keep producing growing profits indefinitely into the future.

Yet Disney hasn't ever been a huge fan of dividends. Its 1.4% dividend yield is well below the Dow's average, but even more telling is that Disney doesn't even make regular quarterly dividend payouts. Until 2015, Disney contented itself with annual dividends, and last year's move only brought the company up to semiannual payments. To its credit, the company has quadrupled its payout rate since 2009, but with a payout ratio of just 25% of earnings, Disney is being unnecessary stubborn in keeping its dividend low.

Nike , 1.1% dividend yield
Athletic apparel has become a huge growth industry, and industry leader Nike hasn't let its up-and-coming rivals pass it up. Smart financial management has been a key to Nike's success, and even though some of its competitors have enjoyed faster top-line growth rates, Nike has controlled costs in order to keep operating margins and net profits as high as possible. Efforts to expand globally have made Nike a force to be reckoned with in China and Western Europe, and the company has also tried to fill in gaps in its coverage by appealing to soccer fans worldwide as well as other disciplines like running. The women's business has also shown signs of high growth for Nike.

In that light, Nike's 1.1% dividend yield seems uncharacteristically near the end of the pack. The company has put together a reasonable track record of raising its dividends annually for more than a decade, but it still pays out less than a third of its earnings in dividend payments. In some people's eyes, Nike is still a growth stock with a need to reinvest capital into its business, and that has arguably made investors more forgiving of its low yield. Nevertheless, as the company matures, it will need to accelerate its dividend increases in order to meet expectations of dividend investors.

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Visa , 0.8% dividend yield
Visa is among the newest members of the Dow, with a history as a publicly traded stock that goes back less than a decade to its 2008 IPO. Yet the credit card giant's business goes back half a century to the origins of the industry, and Visa has worked hard to build the largest payments network in the world. The company has benefited both from healthy conditions in the U.S. market and from its efforts to expand internationally, and trends toward greater adoption of electronic payment methods bode well for Visa's future prospects.

Visa's dividend yield of 0.8% shows how unimportant dividends are to the company. Visa pays out less than 20% of its earnings as dividends, and even fairly substantial increases in percentage terms haven't done much to lift that yield to more respectable levels. Most of Visa's peers have similarly low yields, so there's not much peer pressure on the company to change. Nevertheless, many investors would prefer slightly less stingy dividend practices from Visa.

The Dow is well regarded for its dividends, and the practices of these three stocks are contrary to popular perception. All three of these stocks could raise their dividends, and it's up to shareholders to put pressure on company management to get out of the Dow dividend cellar.

The article The 3 Most Embarrassing Dividend Stocks in the Dow originally appeared on Fool.com.

Dan Caplinger owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Nike, Visa, and Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.