Go deep for dividends, sustainable yields

Fish where big fish pay big, but avoid catching that old tire.

By TheStreet Staff May 28, 2013 12:00PM

thestreet logoOil drilling platform (© Scott Gibson/Corbis)By Marc Courtenay

 

Hope you had a refreshing and meaningful Memorial Day weekend. While taking it easy on Sunday I rented the movie "Fishing for Salmon on the Yemen." It's the ideal movie for anglophiles.

 

It reminded me that sometimes a good "catches" can be found in unique places. While the mob chases dividends from companies like Colgate-Palmolive (CL) and Pfizer (PFE) with current yields of 2.2% and 3.3% respectively, there are richer rewards if one is willing to dive deeper.

 

For example, take SeaDrill Limited (SDRL), which provides offshore drilling services to the oil and gas industry worldwide. Selling at around 11 times forward (12-month) earnings this productive company with an $18.7 billion market cap is currently paying a dividend yield-to-price of 8.4%.

 

The movie I made reference to is about an oil-rich Yemeni sheik who decides he wants to bring salmon and salmon-fishing to his nation. The sheik's very expensive idea would be totally unfeasible if he hadn't made a fortune producing and selling oil and natural gas. To accomplish this, drilling services companies like SeaDrill are frequently engaged.

 

SeaDrill couldn't pay such a generous dividend if it is wasn't earning an ongoing fortune in revenue by aiming to be its customers' most important partner in making oil and gas available in a safe and cost-effective manner.

 

The company operates a versatile fleet of 59 units that comprises drill-ships, jack-up rigs, semi-submersible rigs and tender rigs for operations in shallow to ultra-deepwater areas in harsh environment and benign environments. Going ultra deep opens up many lucrative possibilities for SeaDrill and its customers.

 

SeaDrill is scheduled to release its first quarter results on Tuesday. In connection with the earnings release, a conference call/webcast will be held at 11 a.m. 

 

Management will, in the same conference call, address highlights in North Atlantic Drilling Ltd's first quarter 2013 results. For 2012, SeaDrill earned $4.31 billion in revenue. For the first quarter of 2013, analysts are estimating around an 8.5% quarterly year-over-year sales growth and revenue increase.

 

The company's business model provides it with a close to a 42% trailing 12 months operating margin and a 26% profit margin. That said the analyst community expects the first quarter of 2013 to see an average decrease in earnings-per-share of about 18%. We should listen carefully for the final number during the earnings call.

 

Analysts are expecting the company's EPS to ramp up steadily in the final three quarters of the year and to end 2013 with an impressive average increase of 29% over the previous year. Revenue is expected to grow by nearly 9% for the fiscal year and improve to around $4.86 billion.

 

Two caveats should be mentioned. First, its payout ratio is above 100% of its earnings, which suggests the company is borrowing to keep its yield high. Its dividend policy and history is well worth examining closely. The company's dividend payout has increased steadily since the end of 2007 except for a one-time decrease in the difficult third quarter of 2009.

 

Sustainable dividend yields are usually driven by steadily growing earnings, but there are other factors smart companies must consider. SeaDrill's website states, "The level of dividend will be guided by earnings expectations, market prospects, current capital expenditure programs as well as investment opportunities."

 

Before investing I'd encourage you to read and if possible listen to the first quarter earnings conference call. See if it met or exceeded the analysts' consensus estimates for EPS and revenue, and how it guides for the quarters ahead. The company's officers will also announce the dividend payout for the quarter.

 

SeaDrill looks like it has upside potential with its share price as well. With a price-to-earnings-to-growth ratio (five-year expected) of only 0.44 it wouldn't be a surprise for the share price to retest its 52-week high of $41.95 before the end of the year and then push higher. 

 

The second caveat is that a correction might ensue first. As you can see from the five-year chart below SeaDrill can be a volatile stock. But with energy prices holding their own and the rates for SeaDrill's rigs also staying on the high side the immediate future is looking promising. 

 

seadrill graph

Revenue per share (trailing 12 months) has contributed mightily to the share price rise since late 2011. It looks sustainable and with the EPS estimates looking buoyant SeaDrill may continue to use its deep pockets and much-needed services to keep shareholders happy with ongoing generous dividend payouts.

 

If you're looking for two other companies with deep and sustainable dividend yields, I encourage you to look at another article that I recently wrote that's also quite relevant. 

Investors have every intention of maintaining their mantra of "pay me now and pay me later" when investing in well-managed companies with histories of providing growth and income to shareholders.

 

Companies like SeaDrill are well aware of this fact and will be looking for ways of answering its shareholders' mantra in the affirmative. At the very least, SeaDrill is a dividend-paying company to watch.

 

At the time of publication the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

 

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