Desperately seeking UK Dividend Champions!

It was pointed out to me recently that there’s no David Fish dividend champion list for UK stocks. There’s the fantastic US dividend champion list, and even a Canadian All-star list. But not one for the UK. 🙁 The Queen would not be amused if she knew! Although I daresay she doesn’t spend much time researching dividend paying stocks.

Although perhaps not terribly interesting to most US investors, I hope some of my European and British readers will find the list interesting. Still with me? Grab a cup of tea and read on…

So anyway, I decided to play around for a couple of evenings this week. I wrote some visual basic scripts and collected dividend data for all of the 470 stock symbols that pay dividends on the London Stock Exchange. Of those, only 137 showed as paying increasing dividends for 5 years or more.

In search of the UK Dividend Champion

Based on my research so far, there is no UK Dividend Champion that’s increased dividends for more than 25 years in a row. That said, it’s really hard to get historical dividend payment information for free on the internet. I only managed to get it as far back as 1992 so the longest Dividend Contenders I’m showing in the list have a growth history of 21 years. The general quality seems pretty bad too; I found several inconsistencies between different financial sites and the data they reported.

I didn’t take stock splits into consideration either, so together with the limited history, there are likely some companies that have increased dividends for 25 years straight but finding them will be a challenge unless they disclose it in a press release.

UK dividend payments are typically paid twice a year and not quarterly as in the US. An interim payment is typically made in the first half of the financial year (‘H1’) and then the final payment is made at the year end (‘H2’). I ignored all that and just summed up the dividends per calendar year based on their ex-dividend date, so the annual dividend amounts I’m show in my file may be different than those reported on some UK websites.

My “UK Dividend Champions List”

You can find my list in the file below which I modelled after the US list but it has only a few columns of data at present, mostly focusing on annual dividend growth.

UK-DividendChampions(DL).xlsx

Update: File is updated to version 2014-09-01. See the new home page for more details.

UK Nostalgia

The only company I recognized in the top 20 was Vodafone (VOD.L) who have a 20 year growth history. On a side note, I worked for Vodafone for like 5 minutes in a short-lived blaze of corporate takeovers back in 1994/5 when they acquired the German conglomerate Mannesmann which in turn was owning a German mobile phone company that they wanted.

BAE (BA.L) makes the list too at 10 years; I pass one of their offices on my drive to work each morning. And in the technology sector, ARM Holdings (ARM.L) has a history of 9 years – they’ve managed to carve out an entire empire underneath Intel in the world of low power microprocessors and their ARM processors can be found in iPhones and various tablets.

The few other companies I recognize in the list are high street stores such as Next (NXT.L) (7 years), WH Smiths (SMWH.L) (5 years) and Barclays Bank (BARC.L) also at 5 years who offer a pretty good Savings account in the US with a 0.9% rate.

And last but not least, everyone knows Rolls Royce (RR.L). Except this is the Defense company making jet engines and turbines, not the luxury automobile company which is owned by BMW.

Final thoughts

If anyone finds this list useful and wishes to see updates to it, or maybe even contribute to it with corrections and suggestions, please let me know.

Quote of the day

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

16 thoughts on “Desperately seeking UK Dividend Champions!”

  1. There are some fantastic companies outside the United States. The only problem I have is finding enough information to comfortably make an investment. I feel like I have no edge outside the North American market so I just keep my investing domestic.

    Cheers.

    1. Hey Henry,

      Yes me too – I’m currently buying US companies only although I do have some exposure to international stocks via mutual funds. The tax situation can be more complex and there’s currency to deal with too sometimes.

      I was interested in the mechanics of how to collect free financial data with some automatic web queries. It worked out pretty well in the end.

      Best wishes and have a great weekend!
      -DL

    1. Hi JC,

      Thanks for the link! I only just noticed that your comment ended up in the spam pile so I rescued as soon as it saw it today. Sorry about that!

      Making the list has been quite the learning experience for me – I’m realizing just how many errors you can find in Yahoo Finance and how the data from different sources doesn’t always match. And getting old data is really hard.

      Best wishes!
      -DL

  2. HI GUYS!!! Actually, I should say: ‘What ho, old chaps?!’ I’ve been struggling with this problem for years and was actually wondering whether we might put our collective thinking caps on and come up with a joint solution?

    -DL – you being fantastic and clever are obviously skilled in programmish type things which I don’t understand, thank you for this wonderful beginning to what I hope will be a nice little project for us all to mess about with (then we could do Germany, Australia… etc?)

    If you look at my website, under the watchlist page I’ve got a list of stocks which have paid at least 7 years of increased dividends… but I’ve filtered these from a larger list, because I reject any that are above PE15 and below 1.5 on dividend cover, for value and safety respectively.

    I do this at the beginning of every month, but I guess I could make a tab on the spreadsheet for people to see the whole list? It is only stocks from the FTSE 350, so unfortunately it is missing some potentially good small-caps that have also paid increasing dividends for a long time…

    Let me know what you think.

    1. Hi M,
      Thanks for your feedback and I’m certainly willing to put some time into supporting this.

      I had to research Dividend Cover – it’s an upside down version of the US Payout Ratio, so a stock with a Payout Ratio of 50%, has a Dividend Cover of 2. It’s interesting how cultures view the same problem differently!

      Thanks for clueing me in about your watchlist; I must admit that I didn’t see it before as it was hidden in the menu drop-down.

      Regarding P/E, I think it’s more flexible for everyone to just put the P/E in a column so you can filter it for the P/E threshold you’re interested in. I’ve uploaded a new version of the file where I’ve added Market Cap, P/E ratio and Stock Price to show this. What do you think about this approach?

      The P/E value is from Yahoo Finance and it’s a little different than some other financial sites but I think it’s fairly close.

      I’d suggest to do something similar for Dividend Cover / Payout Ratio but the Yahoo data is a mess for dividends per share for UK stocks as far as I can see; so I need to find an alternative source of data.

      Cheers!
      -DL

      1. Great ideas there, will look into improving the spreadsheet. Take a look at iii(.)co(.)uk on their website you can get seven years’ of data, but I don’t know if the site structure allows you to pull the data easily with a script

        1. Hi M,

          Do you need an account at iii.co.uk since I can view stock quotes but I can’t seem to find any dividend history?

          So far the most useful free source for UK stocks I’ve found seems to be the daily telegraph. They have about 5 year dividend history and a bunch of other details all on their fundamentals page.

          Cheers,
          -DL

  3. oh and btw, I’ve finally found the link I was looking for – the other day I found this guy’s website who also wrote about the UK dividends:

    long-term-investments[DOT]blogspot[DOT]co[DOT]uk

    it was called something like ‘dividend kings’, but I haven’t verified nor cross-checked his data against mine

    1. Hi M,

      I looked at the site you mentioned and it seems a little out of date (Oct-13) and was including US stocks too I think. Did you mean UK Dividend Kings as that site looks to be current but has a minimum entry of 10 years growth?

      I’ll cross-check your list and their list later today to see if there are any companies missing. There are discrepancies e.g. UKD shows WPP as the highest dividend king with a 17 year history, but from the Yahoo Finance data, they did not increase their dividend payments in 2010, so my list shows them as 4 years growth.

      This may be because of the half-yearly offset; e.g. if I look at the Telegraph site, it suggests WPP paid a total divided of UKP 15.47 for 2010 (10.28+5.19), but 5.19 of that dividend was paid in 2009.

      The values I’m showing in my list are from the respective calendar year to keep my brain cell from hurting. So I count 2010 to be 10.28 + 5.97 = 16.25.

      What’s your viewpoint on this? Do you think it matters?

      Cheers,
      -DL

      1. The blog I mentioned is current and I think referenced the second site you mentioned there called UK dividend kings.

        WPP held their payments at the same level in 2009 as they paid in 2008, so they do not qualify for my list of 7+ yrs of growth. But they are included in some people’s lists as a held level is not as bad as a cut… But for me, I wouldn’t count it, as I only look for 7+ yrs of proper increases. I filter mine (if I’ve got several to chose from) by additionally looking for above inflation increases (2.5%, or 2% if I’m feeling generous!)

        http://www.iii.co.uk/research/LSE%3AWPP/fundamentals

        You can replace the WPP in this address with any UK ticker to see the fundamentals on iii’s site, not sure if you even need to register, but it’s a free registration if you do…

        1. Hi M,
          Thanks, that’s great! I wasn’t able to find that particular page – the link works and I don’t need to register to get there, so that’s cool.

          Yes, totally agree with you – dividend growth is a very simple rule…did the dividend increase or not? While a constant value is “not as bad”, it’s also not as good and the point of the list is to show the good. No mercy.

          I’m like you – I do my screening based on a minimum yield of 2% and a dividend growth of at least 3%; if a company can’t at least grow their dividend in line with inflation, I won’t invest in it.

          So here’s the weird thing (and I’m quite glad about it since I’m not entirely losing my mind apparently):

          For WPP:
          – 2013 Annual Dividend per III.co.uk -> UKP 34.21
          London Stock Exchange.com shows it at UKP 30.27 which is the value I agree with.

          I think I’ll stick to the calendar year as it makes little sense to compare companies’ performance based on their chosen financial year. I’ll play around with reading some data from the sites tomorrow.

          Cheers,
          -DL

  4. Hi there,

    You guys are right, that’s my mistake. WPP did hold their dividend between 2008 and 2009 so they won’t qualify for my list! I’ll get that updated ASAP.

    Thanks for the mention and the correction.

    UKDK

    1. Hi UKDK,

      It’s funny the difference that a few months can make; I calculate the growth years by both Financial Year and Calendar Years, although I only show Calendar Years in my file so far as it seems a fairer comparison to me.

      WPP have increased dividends for 21 years on a Calendar Year basis when they started paying dividends in 1993, but only 4 on a Financial Year basis because of the hold as you mention. Conversely Associated British Foods have a 14 year record based on their Financial Year but only 8 by Calendar Year.

      Great job on your web site! 🙂

      Best wishes,
      -DL

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