Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE:CL), together with its subsidiaries, manufactures and markets consumer products worldwide. CL has paid uninterrupted dividends on its common stock since 1895 and increased payments to common shareholders for 48 consecutive years. The company’s last dividend increase was in February 2011, when the Board of Directors approved a 9.40% increase, to 58 cents per share. Over the past decade, CL has delivered an annualized total return of 7% to its shareholders.
The company has managed to deliver a 9.40% annual increase in EPS since 2002. Analysts expect Colgate-Palmolive to earn $5.38 per share in 2012 and $5.90 per share in 2013. In comparison, Colgate-Palmolive earned $4.94 per share in 2011. The company has managed to consistently repurchase 1.30% of its outstanding shares on average in each year over the past decade.
Colgate generates over 60% of its sales from outside of the U.S. The growing emerging markets in Latin America and Asia and the rising middle class in these markets could present an excellent opportunity. Latin America accounts for one third of sales, while Asia/Africa accounts for over one fifth of sales.
The issue with overexposure to Latin America is that the continent has been prone to currency devaluations, which could impact profitability. Another issue could come from rising commodity costs, which could pressure margins and profitability despite expectations for rising volumes. Given the strong brand names of many of Colgate’s products however, the company could mitigate this by passing on cost increases to consumers.
The company has a very high return on equity of 101%. Rather than focus on absolute values for this indicator, I generally want to see at least a stable return on equity over time.
The annual dividend payment has increased by 13.60% per year over the past decade, which is higher than the growth in EPS.
A 14% growth in distributions translates into the dividend payment doubling almost every five years. Looking at historical data going as far back as 1981, Colgate has managed to double its dividend every seven and a half years on average.
The dividend payout ratio has increased from a low of 33% in 2002 to 46% in 2011. A lower payout is always a plus, since it leaves room for consistent dividend growth, minimizing the impact of short-term fluctuations in earnings
Currently Colgate-Palmolive is attractively valued at 19.50 times earnings, has a sustainable dividend payout and yields 2.60%.
The author is long CL, PG, CLX and KMB.