2014 Year End Review for the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats

The end of 2014 marks a good time to review how our favorite dividend growth stocks did (and it marks a year for this blog, including the switch from DividendAristocratStocks.com to HarvestingDividends.com). We started the year with 54 Dividend Aristocrat stocks and will end it with 53, on the way to 51. And two long-standing dividend growth stocks broke their dividend growth records.

A Dividend Aristocrat Falls Out of the S&P 500

Standard & Poor’s announced that packaging and label manufacturer Bemis Corporation would be replaced in the S&P 500 by Royal Caribbean. Bemis will move into the S&P Midcap 400 index, meaning that Bemis will now meet the criteria for a High Yield Dividend Aristocrat. Royal Caribbean has increased regular dividends annually since 2011 after suspending them during the financial crisis in 2008 and will not qualify as a Dividend Aristocrat.

Two Dividend Aristocrats Get Bought

Two Dividend Aristocrats – Family Dollar and Sigma Aldrich – began the process of being acquired this year. In September, Sigma Aldrich announced an agreement to be acquired by Darmstadt, Germany – based pharmaceutical and chemical company Merck KGaA. The agreement, which Sigma shareholders approved in mid-December, will be final in the middle of 2015. In a similar, but not quite as straightforward story, Family Dollar is in the middle of being bought by someone – we’re just not quite sure whom yet. In July, Dollar Tree announced a plan to buy Family Dollar in a friendly merger. Three weeks later, Dollar General announced a counteroffer, setting off a bidding war for the discount retailer. Neither Dollar General nor Dollar Tree pay regular dividends, making it likely that we’ll see another company get removed from the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats.

Diebold’s Run Ends at 60 Years – and an Energy Company Changes Focus

One of the longest running dividend growth stocks concluded 2014 by holding their dividends flat from the prior year. Diebold, which specializes in automated systems (like ATMs) and security systems, kept their annual dividend payout at $1.15 per share. This is the first year in over 6 decades that Diebold has not increased its dividend payment and will force their removal from S&P’s High Yield Dividend Aristocrats index.

And High Yield Dividend Aristocrat Energen completed their transformation from a diversified energy company to a pure-play oil-focused exploration and production company with the divestment of its natural gas portfolio. Natural gas holding company The Laclede Group, Inc. (LG) purchased the holdings, allowing Energen to reduce its debt and improve its cash liquidity. Unfortunately for dividend investors, it was the natural gas holdings that allowed Energen to increase the dividend payout for 32 years. With the sale of their natural gas portfolio, Energen decreased the quarterly dividend payout from 15 to 2 cents per share, and Energen will fall from the High Yield Dividend Aristocrat index.

(On a side note, The Laclede Group is worth looking at for dividend growth investors as they’ve increased dividends since 2004.)

Walgreens Completes Merger with Alliance Boots, Changes Ticker Symbol

After the market close on December 30th, Dividend Aristocrat Walgreens completed their merger with Alliance Boots GmbH of Switzerland to form Walgreen Boots Alliance, which combines drugstore chain Walgreens, European retail pharmacy leader Boots, and international wholesaler and distributor Alliance Healthcare. In the merger, Walgreens is now a wholly – owned subsidiary of Walgreen Boots Alliance, and Walgreens stock was converted into Walgreen Boots Alliance stock in a one-for-one exchange. The new stock now trades on the NASDAQ under the symbol WBA. If the company remains a member of the S&P 500 (it should), then the new company will take Walgreens’ place as a Dividend Aristocrat.

2014 Performance Summary

It’s now time for us to review the performance of the Dividend Aristocrats in 2014. I compare a particular Aristocrat’s performance against the performance of the S&P 500. In 2014, the S&P 500 index returned 11.39% and closed the year with a yield of 1.81%. (As individual investors, we closest we can come to buying the index is to buy the exchange traded fund that trades under the ticker symbol SPY. I’m using that to calculate the yield.)

By comparison, the Proshares Dividend Aristocrat exchange traded fund NOBL ended the year up 15.56% and with yield of 1.40%.

Of the 53 Dividend Aristocrats, 44 finished up for the year, with 35 beating the performance of the S&P 500 index in 2014. The top 5 performing Aristocrats were:

  1. Sigma-Aldrich (up 47.29% in 2014)
  2. Sherwin Williams (44.85%)
  3. Leggett & Platt (42.56%)
  4. Lowe’s Companies (41.22%)
  5. Cintas Corporation (34.85%)

Nine Aristocrats finished down on the year, with the worst 5 performers as follows:

  1. Pentair (-13.17% in 2014)
  2. Emerson (-9.62%)
  3. Dover Corporation (-8.83%)
  4. Chevron (-6.99%)
  5. Aflac (-6.26%)

At the end of 2014, here are the 5 highest yielding Aristocrats:

  1. AT&T (currently yielding 5.48%)
  2. HCP, Inc. (4.95%)
  3. Con Edison (3.82%)
  4. Chevron (3.82%)
  5. McDonald’s (3.63%)

…and the 5 lowest yielding Aristocrats:

  1. C. R. Bard (currently yielding 0.53%)
  2. Sigma-Aldrich (0.67%)
  3. Sherwin Williams (0.84%)
  4. Franklin Resources (1.08%)
  5. Cintas Corporation (1.08%)

View a sortable table of the performance and current yield of the 53 Dividend Aristocrats.

2015 Plans for HarvestingDividends.com

Finally, the new year gives me a chance to thank all of you who visited HarvestingDividends.com over the last year and to think about where this blog should go over the next 12 months.  Earlier this year, when I changed the name of the blog from DividendAristocratStocks.com to HarvestingDividends.com, it was to be able to expand beyond just the Dividend Aristocrats to other dividend growth stocks.  I have begun to include members of the High Yield Dividend Aristocrats in my weekly reviews of dividend announcement, but I haven’t published any company summaries.  Beginning this month, that’s going to change.  I will begin publishing summaries of the High Yield Dividend Aristocrats and other dividend growth stocks.

Also, I’m looking forward to spending some time to upgrade the appearance of the site, to make it both more appealing and more useful to you.  If you have any thoughts or comments about what you’d like to see, please feel free to contact me or leave a comment.

Happy investing to you in 2015!

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