Global diversified technology/industrial company and maker of post-it notes 3M (MMM) recently increased its dividend by 4.2%. While 3M has increased its dividend for 50 straight years, the strength of their recent increases surely leaves something to be desired. Let's have a look at the last few years as far as earnings per share (EPS) growth and dividend growth go:
2005 EPS growth = 11%, Dividend growth = 17%
2006 EPS growth = 22%, Dividend growth = 10%
2007 EPS growth = 11%, Dividend growth = 4%
2008 EPS growth = ? , Dividend growth = 4%
Consensus analyst estimates for 2008, and 2009 EPS growth are 10%, and 10% respectively. Therefore, this begs the question; why the weak dividend growth lately? Is 3M bulking up for a large acquisition? Perhaps they are just balancing dividend growth out over the long term after the fairly significant raises in 2005 and 2006. They could be simply trying to keep their pay out ratio, which currently sits around 37%, in line. I am not certain what their long term policy is on the dividend, and if they have a target pay out ratio in mind.
The company's long term track record on earnings and dividend growth must be viewed as strong, however their dividend growth rate over the last 10 years has been a little weak at less than 5%. 3M currently yields about 2.4%.