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More Companies Contemplate Resuming Dividends After Stopping During the Pandemic

By:
S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Aug 31, 2022

The dividend is back. For some.

After an almost two-year pause induced by the COVID-19 pandemic, some companies are contemplating the issuance of dividends again, according to the Wall Street Journal. Others remain hesitant in the face of the current economic situation.

“Nearly 190 U.S.-listed companies stopped paying dividends in 2020 to save much-needed cash, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence, a data provider. Thirty-nine went back to them that same year, 53 followed suit in 2021, and 23 have done so this year. However, 72 companies have yet to reinstate their dividends, including Boeing Co. and Walt Disney Co.,” the Journal reported.

As firms await actions by the Federal Reserve to tame inflation and confront a looming recession, they are holding back from the distribution, opting instead to reduce debt or buy back shares. The Journal noted that “cutting or canceling a dividend is often a sign that that worries investors.”

One asset manager concurs.

“The dividend is a big signal of confidence, management, commitment and governance,” said Diane Jaffee, a senior portfolio manager at TCW Group Inc.

Companies have their own reasons for demurring. Boeing, recovering from damage inflicted by problems with its MAX 737 aircraft, will prioritize investment in research as cash flow improves, while Disney continues to reduce the debt incurred by its $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox in 2019. Gannett does not plan to resume its dividend “for the foreseeable future,” as it opts to pay down debt and invest in its subscription business.

The correctness of this strategy is not universally embraced.

“Generally, it’s a sign of the health of the company to issue dividends,” said James McRitchie, an individual investor in close to 200 companies, including Boeing and Disney.

 

 

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