Technology isn’t usually a space investors associate with dividends. While this has been the case historically, dividend payments have been cropping up in recent years. Although most companies in this space still don’t pay dividends, there are a few that have handsome distributions on both an absolute and a relative basis.
To ferret out some more companies in the technology area that have material dividends, we screened the Computer Software, Computers and Peripherals, E-Commerce, Electronics, Entertainment Technology, Foreign Electronics, Internet, Semiconductor, Semiconductor Capital Equipment, and Wireless Networking industries. First, we looked for companies with dividend yields above 1.0% and then, to help ensure the dividends were sustainable, we limited the results to those corporations with long-term debt as a percentage of total capital below 50%.
The screen, simple as it is, netted 47 companies with yields ranging from just about 1% to above 7%. Long-term debt-to-total capital ratios ranged from nil to near the 50% limit. There was no particular correlation between debt and distribution. Of note, however, is the fact that yields drop quickly toward the market average—not surprising given the nature of the industry.
Kyocera (KYO) develops, produces and distributes various products ranging from fine ceramic packages for integrated circuits to electronics devices for the global information, communications, environment, and energy markets. Specific end-products include printers, multifunctional peripherals, silicon solar cells, and consumer electronic devices such as handsets. The company routinely expands and diversifies its business through mergers and acquisitions. Customers include individuals, corporations, governments and governmental agencies.
Kyocera has been facing some headwinds of late. The company recently reduced its fiscal 2011 operating profit target by 20%, as a number of its solar customers are expected to adjust inventories lower in the March quarter. European solar panel makers were experiencing sluggish demand, driving prices lower. Inventories for the components business appear somewhat elevated as well, particularly in Japan. The lingering effects of the floods in Thailand should also keep a lid on near-term earnings growth. These negatives appear largely reflected in the stock price at present, and we see marginal downside risk at the current quotation.
We expect results to pick up after the March quarter is complete as customers begin to replenish depleted inventories. Positive order commentary suggests demand may have bottomed and the company has entered the beginning of an up cycle. Further, the soon-to-be enforced Japanese “special measures law” —which requires electric power outfits to purchase power generated from natural energy sources— may boost solar revenues. Increased business from customers in Thailand should also help bring the company back on track. Despite management lowering its expectations for the current year’s dividend payout by 8%, we still view the 1.8% yield as relatively appealing.
Sony Corp. (SNE) and its subsidiaries develop, design, manufacture, and sell various kinds of electronic equipment, instruments, and devices for consumer, professional and industrial markets, as well as game consoles and software. It also creates and distributes image-based software, including motion picture, home entertainment and television products. In addition, Sony is a major producer and distributor in the music industry. The company also has a financial services business, including life and non-life insurance operations through its Japanese insurance subsidiaries and banking operations through a Japanese Internet-based bank.
After losing nearly 50% of their value over the preceding twelve months, Sony shares may finally be ripe for a comeback. The company appears to have commenced the necessary restructuring activity to marshal a sustainable turnaround in its overall operating performance.
For one, Sony ended its LCD joint venture with Samsung, which ought to reduce panel procurement and fixed costs, and help slow the bleeding at its unprofitable TV segment (the most recent quarter marked the eighth-consecutive period with year-over-year losses). This was accomplished quicker than originally anticipated and may be a harbinger of further success at restructuring the unit in a timeframe that pleases investors. Although the losses may subside, the entire TV industry faces a challenging consumer spending environment, and we still await a clear plan for growth via new TV technologies.
Elsewhere, Sony Ericsson recently became a 100% owned subsidiary of the company and Sony will now be marketing handsets under its own name. The integration ought to permit cost synergies, but a higher top line will likely be necessary to push the new unit into profitability. Sony plans to grow the number of smartphone models it offers to better compete with industry giants Apple (AAPL) and Samsung. North America is the primary target for incremental smartphone sales. We think Sony will be successful at integrating more of its cutting edge consumer electronics intellectual property into upcoming smartphone devices. And, the ability to provide new models with preferred access to Sony’s entertainment content (games, movies, music) may also help the company’s position in the global smartphone market.
Overseeing the execution of growth initiatives in the TV and smartphone spaces will be Kazuo Hirai, the newly appointed CEO who is scheduled to take control in April. Evidence of progress here will likely be rewarded but there is significant risk that this will take longer than currently projected. Still, the recent structural changes should limit Sony's losses in the near term. Furthermore, the profitable and still-thriving Film, Music, and business to business electronics segments ought to help offset potential weakness in TVs and Mobile and keep the dividend yield at above average levels (currently 1.9%) for the foreseeable future
At the time of this articles writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.