If you had asked me for a great dividend stock ten years ago, I wouldn’t even have paused to think about it. International Business Machines (IBM 2.77%) was the obvious choice for income investors back then.
IBM was a superstar in 2012. Other companies were lined up to copy Big Blue’s successful business plan, serving as a one-stop-shop for every information technology requirement your business might face. The dividend yield wasn’t extremely high. At 1.7%, it was actually among the six at least generous payouts on the Dow Jones Industrial Average at the time.
But IBM’s commitment to a high-quality dividend was unquestioned, and kind of a big deal. Furthermore, the company powered those rising payouts from ample cash flows. The only reason why the yield wasn’t more impressive was that IBM’s stock price had posted massive gains from 1995 to 2012. Of all the problems an investment could face, that’s a pretty nice one.
That being said, IBM stood at a crossroads in 2012. The company had just installed Ginni Rometty in the CEO’s office, and she had started to turn Big Blue in a new direction. That process has been painful and is not completely done yet, even though Rometty has already passed the CEO baton to cloud computing veteran Arvind Krishna.
The IBM you see today is a very different company than the hardware/software/services giant of 2012. But is Big Blue still a no-brainer dividend investment?
Big Blue’s recent dividend history
As it turns out, IBM’s dividend achievements have continued to stack up over the last decade.
In 2012, the company had been raising its payouts annually for 17 years. Now, the unbroken streak of dividend boosts has stretched to 27 years, qualifying the stock as a proper Dividend Aristocrat. Granted, the increases have been relatively small in recent years but Big Blue gritted its proverbial teeth and came up with the cash. Symbolic dividend increases still count, and the annual payouts per share have roughly doubled over the last ten years.
If you picked up some IBM shares at the start of its Aristocratic run of dividend lifts, you would have paid a split-adjusted price of approximately $22 per share in December 1995. Today, IBM pays out quarterly dividend checks adding up to $1.65 per year . The effective yield on those old shares, then, works out to 7.5%. That’s not too shabby, and up from an effective yield of 3.9% a decade ago.
All told, the payout has increased by a staggering 2.540% in 27 years:
Is IBM a great income investment for new money?
Investors grabbing new IBM shares right now start from a respectable yield of 4.8%. Starting from this rich payout gives you a leg up on income generation in the long run.
Now that IBM has taken the journey from a complete IT buffet to a leaner specialist in artificial intelligence and hybrid cloud computing, I expect the company to report impressive growth over the next decade or so. Once the global economy finds its feet again, IBM should emerge as a leader and highly trusted provider of cloud and AI services.
And the renewed financial growth will probably inspire another run of more generous dividend increases, like the 2007-to-2020 surge that followed after the slower-paced increases between 1995 and 2005. The company has a long history of putting shareholder-friendly dividends and buybacks first, and I don’t expect that philosophy to change.
So yes, IBM is still a great dividend stock. If anything, it’s only getting better with age. Time and consistent dividend raises are the magic ingredients in this wealth-building potion.