*The following is a guest post by Dividend Power*
As a dividend growth investor, I love Dividend Champions. These are stocks that have paid a
growing dividend for 25-years or more. Thomson Reuters is a Dividend Champion. The stock is
also one of the Canadian Dividend Aristocrats. Thomson Reuters is a Canadian company that
trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange or ‘TSE’ and also trades on the New York Stock Exchange
or ‘NYSE’. At the right price, the stock is probably a good addition to many dividend growth
portfolios. The market downturn resulting from COVID-19 caused the stock price to drop, but it
has recovered somewhat since then. The current dividend yield is roughly 2.3%, which is higher
than the broader market average. Dividend growth investors may want to research this stock
Thomson Reuters is a media, content, and data company that traces its founding back to 1934 in
Canada and 1851 in London. The company in its current form is the result of a $17.6 billion
merger between Thomson of Canada and Reuters Group of the U.K. in 2008. More recently, in
2018, the company divested its Finance and Risk business forming Refinitv in exchange for $17
billion. Thomson owns a 45% stake of Refinitv and The Blackstone Group (BX) owns the other
55%. In 2019, Thomson Reuters agreed to exchange the 45% stake in Refinitiv that it owns for
a 15% stake in the London Stock Exchange Group subject to regulatory approvals.
Today, Thomson Reuters operates in five business segments: Corporates (22% of revenue),
Legal Professionals (41% of revenue), Tax & Accounting Professionals (14% of revenue), Reuters
News (11% of revenue), and Global Print (12% of revenue). The company will have about $5.9
billion in revenue in 2020 (before COVID-19 impacts). Thomson Reuters is the market leader in
the global legal market segment, and the market leader in corporate legal and tax solutions in
the U.S., and the tax market segment in the U.S.
Note that the company is controlled by the Thomson family of Canada through their investing
vehicle, Woodbridge Company Limited. They control approximately 65% of the company’s
common shares. The family holds the chairman position in Thomson Reuters.
Thomson Reuters is a Dividend Champion and a Canadian Dividend Aristocrat. The company
has paid a growing dividend for 27 consecutive years since 1993. The regular cash dividend has
increased from $0.08 per share in 1993 to $1.52 per share in 2020. This gives a current dividend
yield of approximately 2.3%, which is not bad compared to S&P 500s’ current average dividend
yield of about 2.0%.
Source: TRI Booklet Winter 2020
Thomson’s dividend safety metrics have historically been somewhat volatile due to special
items. They have also worsened recently due to the divestment and subsequent loss of revenue
and lower earnings, and COVID-19.
Looking forward, consensus 2020 earnings per share is $1.77. The forward dividend is $1.52 per
share. This gives a payout ratio of approximately 86%. This value is greater than my target value
of 65% or lower. However, revenue and earnings are likely to be depressed in 2020 due to
COVID-19. Further, Thomson Reuters is adding to revenue through bolt-on acquisitions. This
should improve the payout ratio with time as these acquisitions grow and add to the bottom-
On a free cash flow basis, the dividend is also safe. The company is guiding for roughly $1 billion
in free cash flow. This is down from guidance of $1.2 billion in FCF earlier in the year due to
COVID-19. The dividend costs about $760 million annually ($1.52 x 500 million shares). This
gives a dividend-to-FCF ratio of about 76%. This is an OK value but higher than my target value
of 70%. The long-range target for Thomson Reuters is to pay 50% – 60% of free cash flow as
The dividend is also seemingly safe from the perspective of debt. At end of the most recent
quarter, Thomson Reuters had outstanding debt of $3.8 billion off set by cash on hand and
short-term investments of $1.35 billion. No debt is due until 2023 adding to the good picture from the
perspective of debt.
Overall, the combination of the divestiture, restructuring, and COVID-19 has likely made the
dividend safety metrics somewhat worse the desired. However, Thomson Reuters has
positioned itself in higher growth areas and is forecasting organic growth supplemented by M&A. With that said, I do not expect the dividend to grow at very fast rate over the next couple
of years as the global economy recovers from COVID-19.
Is Thomson Reuters undervalued? The stock is currently trading at a forward earnings multiple
of about 38.5X. This is higher than the average of the S&P 500, which is trading at 21.9 as of this
writing. So, no Thomson Reuters is not undervalued at the moment. However, some of this
elevated valuation is due to lower consensus forward earnings per share due to COVID-19. The
high earnings multiple is also due to limited float that is also contributing to overvaluation.
Recall that the Thomson family controls about 65% of the common shares. So, there is limited
amount of stock that trades on a daily basis for a company of its size.
Thomson Reuters’ stock price dropped to near $52 per share at the depths of the downturn
caused by COVID-19, which was probably a good entry point. The stock is arguably an under the
radar dividend growth stock. I expect that the dividend will continue to grow in the future but
at a slower rate. The company has seemingly prioritized share repurchases and M&A at the
moment. With that said, dividend growth investors may want to research this stock further
and keep an eye on it for a better entry point.
Biography: Dividend Power is self-taught dividend growth investor. He is the founder and
author of the Dividend Power investment blog. He writes about dividend growth stocks for the
long-term small investor seeking to invest in dividend stocks for income and growth. His focus is
on undervalued stocks with sustainable dividend growth and capital appreciation potential. His
work has appeared on Seeking Alpha, Sure Dividend, ValueWalk, The MoneyShow, and other