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Buy Dow Stock for the Dividend as the Breakup Dust Settles

Ian Bezek

After several years of planning, negotiations, talking with regulators, and other such work, the great DowDuPont (Dow ((NYSE:DOW)), DuPont ((NYSE:DD)) merger and subsequent breakup is complete. The old Dow Chemical and DuPont merged awhile ago with the explicit intention to break back up afterward. Why’d they do this? And what’s it mean for the new DOW stock?


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Buy Dow Stock for the Dividend as the Breakup Dust Settles

The strategic rationale is a solid one. Both Dow and DuPont had a lot of businesses and product lines that competed directly with each other. The firms were fierce rivals, in fact.

By bringing everything together in one company, Dow and DuPont could stop needlessly competing with each other. However, the combined firm was an absolute industrial behemoth. To keep things manageable, the companies decided to split the united organization up into three standalone entities.

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With the completed spin-off of Corteva (NYSE:CTVA) earlier this spring, the long M&A process is finally over. DowDupont has now fully demerged into three entities: Dow, Dupont and Corteva. Dow is the commodity chemical business, with a general focus on products made out of hydrocarbons. DuPont makes a wide variety of chemicals that go into a large number of industrial applications. Corteva is the smallest firm of the three and focuses exclusively on agricultural seeds and chemicals.

DuPont and Corteva Offer More Growth

Of the three firms, Corteva should offer investors the most growth prospects. Its seeds business, in particular, is a strong one. It has only a few rivals, namely Monsanto and Syngenta. Both of those firms produced massive shareholder returns in recent decades before being acquired. Farmers rely on the trio of those two, plus Corteva, for cutting-edge seeds that boost agricultural production and help resist pests and drought among other maladies.

Corteva’s agricultural chemicals are also designed, in large part, to work in combination with its GMO seeds. Both Dow and DuPont had a strong business in agriculture, so the combined firm should be a winner. I added to my CTVA stock position after the spin-off concluded.

DuPont is another interesting option out of the three. Post-M&A activity, DuPont is now exposed to a vast number of businesses. These range from kitchen plastic wrap to Kevlar vests, micro-components for automotive electronics and a long list of other such things. DuPont gets no more than 15% of its revenues from any one industry.

This gives it wide diversification and protects it from a recession more than most other industrial firms. DD stock should offer folks a strong growth and income combination, though its starting 2% dividend yield isn’t massive.

The Best Option for Dividend Investors

While DuPont and Corteva offer attractive growth, the main appeal for DOW stock is its generous dividend policy. DOW stock offers a 70 cent per quarter payout. That’s $2.80 per year, or a nearly 5.5% dividend yield at the current Dow stock price.

Based on current earnings projections, Dow can cover that payout from its earnings though it is certainly an aggressive payout. Over time, Dow should be able to grow its earnings, as it has cut nearly $1.4 billion in costs as a result of merger synergies. It expects to pick up several hundred million more in additional savings.

Over time, Dow plans to return 65% of its cash flow to investors, with around 45% of that coming in the form of dividends. The rest will be devoted to DOW stock buybacks.

This strategy makes a lot of sense. Dow is, generally, in a lot of slow-growing or mature businesses. It doesn’t need to invest much in R&D as a result, unlike, say, Corteva with its next-gen agricultural seeds. So the new Dow is an ideal vehicle for income-focused investors.

Dow Stock Verdict

That said, it’s not all roses and sunshine for investors in the Dow Chemical. A lot of Dow’s businesses are pretty stagnant. And a good number rely on oil as an input and are subject to margin pressures depending on commodity prices. As it is, analysts see Dow’s revenues actually falling a bit in 2019 before leveling off in 2020 and 2021. The earnings growth, to the extent it comes, will be from cost savings. The share buyback should also raise EPS once it starts taking effect.

There’s a lot to like about Dow Inc’s stock post-breakup if you are an income investor. The stock already yields 5.5%, which puts it at nearly triple the S&P 500’s yield or that of 10-year treasury bonds.

If Dow management is able to follow through on projected cost savings, it should be able to hike the dividend dramatically over the next two years. If management hits its projections, DOW stock’s yield could reach 7% within a couple of years.

Don’t expect DOW stock to skyrocket anytime soon, however. Competitors like LyondellBasell Industries (NYSE:LYB) and Westlake Chemical (NYSE:WLK) trade at around 8x earnings.

So Dow, at 9x, is actually slightly more expensive than its immediate peers. The dividend is great, but investors simply aren’t going to value a stodgy low-growth chemical business very highly. And earnings – and the dividend – could get hit the next time a recession rolls around.

At the time of this writing, Ian Bezek owned DOW, DD, and CTVA stock. You can reach him on Twitter at @irbezek.

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