As a reasonably experienced investor on the ZSE and other markets, one of the questions I get asked the most is which companies pay good dividends? Dividend based investing strategies is popular though it is not something I hurriedly advocate if you are working with small amounts of money as many are at least at the start of their journeys. There are merits to investing in dividend-paying companies which we will discuss shortly. To answer the question I thought it would be worthwhile to list the top 10 dividend-paying companies on the ZSE. The discussion here is purely academic and not meant to be used as financial advice or for any investment purposes.
For the uninitiated dividends are a form of profit distribution made by companies to investors in companies. This can be current year profits or retained profits from previous years. Companies can nominate to pay dividends multiple times during the financial year as they see fit. Dividends paid during the course of the year are referred to as interim dividends while dividends p[aid from final year-end profits or at the close of a financial year are referred to as final dividends.
The case for (and against) Dividend strategies
In simple terms, dividends are rewards paid to shareholders. The trouble with dividends is they tend, especially in Zimbabwe to be very small amounts. Over the years 2019 and 2020 combined dividend yields of ZSE companies are very low, 0.4% on average using the method we will discuss shortly and around 1% based on historical averages. The rewards are therefore very low on this side of the fence. I must stress that this applies mainly to small shareholdings where the dividend pay-outs don’t amount to much. However, I do like dividend-paying companies for a few reasons. Primarily only financially strong companies can afford to pay dividends. This strength doesn’t have to come from the current year. Secondly, the capital gains that I am a fan of are unrealised profits until you sell the investment, proverbially killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. Dividends act as appeasement while you wait to harvest your capital gains. So there are merits to dividends for those with small shareholdings.
So the process of identifying the top 10 dividend-paying companies is not as easy as adding up the dividends paid over the last 2 years and ranking them based on those totals. We have to consider the cost of the dividend and that is what the aforementioned dividend yield does. The dividend yield is simply the amount of the dividend divided by the share price expressed as a percentage. This tells us the percentage return on the money invested to receive the dividend. We are looking at 2 years and 47 dividends paid across those 2 years by the companies currently active on the ZSE. So the method I chose was to use the average dividend paid over the two years and divide that by the current share price (12 May 2021). The current price is in bold because it creates a mismatch, we are comparing dividend over the last two years to prices of today. However, this has been chosen because of the size of the data set and the fact that those are the prices you would have to pay to access future dividends. The idea is to show you how well your investment in a company pays back via dividends. We will call our measure the theoretical average annual dividend return. A mouthful but it’s best to keep it separate from the dividend yield.
Top of the roost is CAFCA which also experienced very healthy capital gains in 2020. CAFCA has paid ZW$6.13 in dividend once over the two years. That also happens to be the highest absolute amount. As a percentage of its price at the time of writing (ZW$110) that gives us a theoretical yield of 2.79% per year. One caveat on CAFCA is that its dividend payments are not as regular as some of the other entries on this list.
This may come as a bit of a surprise as African Sun paid out only 4.48 Zimbabwean cents in dividend over the years 2019 and 2020. However, its low price of ZW$2.35 makes up for this and its yield comes in at 0.95%. The hospitality group paid out 4 dividends in the span of the two years under review.
OK Zimbabwe is one of the most consistent dividend-paying companies on the ZSE. The company has a policy of rewarding investors annually. In total, the consumer retailer paid out 3 dividends worth 31.71 Zimbabwean cents. Divided by its price of ZW$17.52 at the time of writing the retailer has a theoretical dividend return of 0.90%.
In terms of absolute dividend size, national Foods falls only second to CAFCA having paid out ZW$5.60 over the two years under review. This is another company that frequently pays dividends, having sent 4 dividend payments to investors in the two years under review. Its hefty price of ZW$318 per share weighs it down to a theoretical dividend return of 0.88%.
Hippo Valley Estates
Hippo is a heavyweight of the ZSE and rightly so. The agricultural producer paid no dividend in 2019 but sent dividends to investors twice in 2020 totalling ZW$1.21. Just like national Foods above it, Hippo was also weighed down in theoretical dividend return by its commanding price of ZW$144.25 to arrive at a theoretical dividend return of 0.84%.
Innscor is another ZSE giant that has managed to rank highly on our list. The company regularly send dividends to investors and did so 4 times in the two years under review. Innscor investors received ZW$1.24 per share in total and divided by its current price of ZW$85 per share we get an average theoretical dividend return of 0.73%.
It’s fitting that a member of the Innscor group should follow next. Axia also sent dividend payments to shareholders 4 times over the two years totalling 26 Zimbabweans cents per share. Axias relatively low price of ZW$13.06 per share gives us a theoretical annual dividend return of 0.71%.
I was genuinely surprised to see Zimplow make the list. The agro-industrial company sent out dividends 4 times over the two years totalling 8.81 Zimbabwean cents. It’s very lowly priced at ZW$6.80 giving us an average theoretical annual dividend return of 0.65%.
Ant surprise on this list is Zimpapers. The diversified media group sent out a dividend in each of the two years with a cumulative total of 2.13 Zimbabwean cents. With shares only priced at ZW$1.70, the theoretical average annual dividend return of Zimpapers is a respectable 0.63%.
First Mutual Holdings
Financial group First Mutual holdings round out our top 10. The group paid out dividends 3 times in the two years that totalled 12 Zimbabwean cents per share. With a current price of ZW $20.33 per share, our theoretical average annual dividend return on the company is 0.59%.
While our measure used here is only theoretical it gives us an idea of how well companies are paying out dividends and puts the current price into focus as opposed to historical prices. Other notable dividend-paying companies that didn’t make the cut include AfDis (2 times), Delta (3 times), Unifreight (2 times), CBZ (2 times), Miekles (2 times), ZB Financial Holdings (2 times), ZimRe (2 times) and First Mutual Properties (2 times). The following companies made one dividend payment in the period under review; Edgars, TSL (which was a USD denominated payment before February 2019), Getbucks, FBC Holdings, NMBZ holdings, Mashonaland Holdings, Willdale, Rainbow Tourism Group, Simbisa Brands, Masimba Holdings, Dairibord and Lafarge Cement.