Meet the Dogs of the Footsie 2015

Money Observer's 2014 Dogs of the Footsie portfolio rose 7.3 per cent in share price terms over the 12 months to the end of January 2015 and 13.2 per cent in total return terms, including dividends.

This beat the performance of the FTSE 100 index over that timeframe, which saw returns of 3.7 and 7.4 per cent respectively.

This has continued an impressive performance for the portfolio, which has beaten the wider index on both a total return and a share price basis for 11 of the 15 years it has been running.

Our strategy is simply putting an equal amount into each of the 10 stocks with the highest yields in the FTSE 100 index, excluding those that have already announced their dividends will be cut, and set them running for 12 months before we sell and pocket the profits.

In this article, we introduce you to the constituents.

Wm Morrison

Yield: 7.23% Price 179.9p

The supermarkets group is the only one of the big three food retailers not to have cut or have warned of a cut in its payout. Tesco's dividend has already been slashed and J Sainsbury said its payout for the year to March is 'likely to be lower' than last year's - analysts are forecasting a 26 per cent cut - so both have been excluded from this year's Dogs portfolio.

Wm Morrison is still promising a 5 per cent rise in the current year, and a 'sustainable and progressive' payout thereafter. The City does not believe it and is pencilling in cuts but, as the company has not officially announced a cut, it goes into the portfolio.

Direct Line

Yield: 4.03% Price 312.5p

Insurance group Direct Line floated at 175p in the autumn of 2012, and those who participated have enjoyed a good capital gain as well as generous dividends. Last year's interim was increased by 4.8 per cent and there was also a 10p special dividend, the second such payment since it floated.

Analysts are forecasting further generous increases of more than 20 per cent for the full year 2014 and the current year, making this an excellent stock for income-seekers.


Yield: 5.79% Price 293.8p

British Gas parent company Centrica has announced a 5 per cent cut in its gas prices to reflect the falling oil price, and analysts think that the dividend could be next in line for a reduction as new chief executive Iain Conn lays out his future strategy.

Cover for the current 17.5p per share payout will be very thin following last year's profit warning, which produced forecasts of about 19p a share. But Conn will be aware that the yield is one of Centrica's core attractions, so a cut is by no means a given.

Standard Chartered

Yield: 5.55% Price 887.7p

Once the darling of the banking sector, Standard Chartered has been under a cloud amid fines, sanction-busting and profit warnings. There has been muted pressure for management changes and this could get louder if it fails to recover. The dividend is well-covered by earnings, and if profits resume an upward trend the shares could be a recovery play.


Yield: 5.39% Price 1609p

The electricity company has also cut its energy prices and vowed not to raise them again for 18 months - perhaps having a subtle dig at Labour's price freeze pledge, an initiative that pre-dated the precipitous collapse in oil prices.

But with Ofgem pointing to high margins, prices remain a political issue and, depending on who wins the May election, further pressure on prices cannot be ruled out.

In the meantime, however, SSE's pledge to increase dividends by at least RPI each year - and a history of increasing its payout every year since 1999 - makes it one of the more attractive dogs.


Yield: 4.45% Price 1467p

Pharmaceutical companies have been only occasional members of our Dogs team as they have tended to be seen more as growth stocks investing heavily in new blockbuster remedies, rather than as reliable income sources.

But new drugs are harder to come by, pressure on prices from hard-pressed health authorities is increasing, and GlaxoSmithKline has been fined for bribery in both the US and China. Its dividend cover is narrowing and profits are predicted to decline for the next two years; while dividends are forecast to rise over that period, the increases are expected to be below 1 per cent.


Yield: 5.62% Price 424.45p

Oil giant BP's shares have been under pressure since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill three years ago, with its attempts to contain the escalating settlement costs meeting little success.

The plunge in the oil price has added to the group's pain, and it has already started a programme of cuts to cope. Dividends were cut in the wake of the oil spill; even after that, cover remains thin, but analysts are still pencilling in increases.

Royal Dutch Shell B

Yield: 5.42% Price 2104.5p

Royal Dutch Shell has also started cutting investments following the collapse in the oil price to a six-year low, but chief executive Ben van Beurden believes that oil will eventually climb back to $90, or almost twice its current price, and remains committed to investing in expensive areas such as Antarctica. Its dividend cover is better than BP's, but growth is likely to be pedestrian.

BHP Billiton

Yield: 4.76% Price 1443p

Anglo-Australian mining company BHP Billiton has been ravaged by the fall in prices of key commodities such as iron ore and copper, and its shares are at a five-year low. The future of commodity prices will depend on economic growth in China, where it is still unclear just how far or how fast the economy will slow.

Oil prices should, however, be beneficial for growth over the long term, and although falling prices will mean falling earnings and tighter dividend cover, no-one is yet forecasting a cut.


Yield: 4.92% Price 609.6p

The banking giant has made a few appearances in the Dogs portfolio and this year's inclusion owes much to the fines and penalties that continue to be levied on banks - HSBC has been fingered for money-laundering, foreign exchange and mis-selling - although the slowdown in China has not helped. But HSBC has been one of the most consistent dividend payers and its cover remains good.

Source: Yields and prices from Financial Times, as at 1 February 2015.

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