More Big Dividend Cuts Signal Just How Bad the Recession Looks for 2020

It used to be so simple for corporate governance and capital spending issues. Corporations know that their investors love to receive dividends. In fact, many retirees supplement their retirement with those quarterly dividends. In a world that the economy has turned into an insta-recession, now companies are taking drastic measures to conserve their cash. On top of drawing down on credit facilities like there is no tomorrow, companies large and small are taking a battle-ax to dividends, buybacks and capital spending as they evaluate what workforce reductions they expect to make.

What is amazing is that it was barely a month ago that corporations were still trying to remain positive about the coronavirus. After all, it was mostly still a China and “other nations” problem. Now every industry in America is in trouble. Even the utilities are trading as though they have much more difficult operations while, restaurants, hotels, retail locations and many non-essential venues have been closed down. The long and short of the matter, and there is no way to sugarcoat this, is that traditional dividend investors are going to realize how crappy this environment is, just as if they were an employee, customer or supplier to many of the great companies.

Last week, there were high-profile dividend cuts and suspensions from the likes of Ford, Boeing and Macy’s. These dividend cuts would be brutal in most markets, but right now is a time that companies have to weigh capital spending cuts to save jobs and to ensure longer operations during the coronavirus recession. Even Boeing’s rival, Airbus, announced that it was tapping a large credit facility and withdrawing its 2020 dividend proposal.

24/7 Wall St. already evaluated some of the top dividend cuts that look likely within the S&P 500 Index, but here is a list of companies that have cut dividends or share buybacks or that have announced an evaluation of their capital allocation plans.

Colony Capital Inc. (NYSE: CLNY) has not formally cut its dividend yet, but since a reassessment of the COVID-19 climate, it withdrew both its full-year 2020 outlook for core funds from operations and withdrew its dividend guidance through the end of 2020. The company said there would be no impact on the previously declared first quarter 2020 dividend of $0.11 per share, payable on April 15. This would have otherwise screened out as a 29% yield.

Delta Air Lines Inc. (NYSE: DAL) has suspended its common dividend and stock buybacks. It had previously been paying $1.61 on an annualized basis and the no dividend will save close to $900 million per year.

Emerald Holding Inc. (NYSE: EEX) has addressed “uncertainty from the rapidly evolving impact of COVID-19 on the travel and events industry” by temporarily suspending its regular quarterly cash dividend. The company’s board will reassess the dividend suspension throughout the year to determine whether and when to reinstate the dividend. Had it maintained the $0.30 annualized payout, with a prior $3.16 share price, that would have been close to a 10% yield for a company that now has a mere $187 million market cap. Shares are down from over $14.00 at their highs.

Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (NYSE: FCX) suspended its quarterly dividend as it aims to lower expenses during the sharp decline in copper prices. The dividend of five cents per share screened as a 3.5% yield, and the dividend used to be significantly higher before it was slashed to a nickel from $0.3125 in 2015.

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