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Is Unitil (UTL) a High-Growth Dividend Stock?

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Getting big returns from financial portfolios, whether through stocks, bonds, ETFs, other securities, or a combination of all, is an investor's dream. But for income investors, generating consistent cash flow from each of your liquid investments is your primary focus.

Cash flow can come from bond interest, interest from other types of investments, and of course, dividends. A dividend is the distribution of a company's earnings paid out to shareholders; it's often viewed by its dividend yield, a metric that measures a dividend as a percent of the current stock price. Many academic studies show that dividends make up large portions of long-term returns, and in many cases, dividend contributions surpass one-third of total returns.

Unitil in Focus

Unitil (UTL - Free Report) is headquartered in Hampton, and is in the Utilities sector. The stock has seen a price change of 11.38% since the start of the year. The utility is currently shelling out a dividend of $0.37 per share, with a dividend yield of 2.87%. This compares to the Utility - Electric Power industry's yield of 3.26% and the S&P 500's yield of 1.78%.

Looking at dividend growth, the company's current annualized dividend of $1.46 is up 1.4% from last year. Unitil has increased its dividend 4 times on a year-over-year basis over the last 5 years for an average annual increase of 1.30%. Future dividend growth will depend on earnings growth as well as payout ratio, which is the proportion of a company's annual earnings per share that it pays out as a dividend. Unitil's current payout ratio is 65%, meaning it paid out 65% of its trailing 12-month EPS as dividend.

Looking at this fiscal year, UTL expects solid earnings growth. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2018 is $2.22 per share, which represents a year-over-year growth rate of 7.77%.

Bottom Line

Investors like dividends for a variety of different reasons, from tax advantages and decreasing overall portfolio risk to considerably improving stock investing profits. But, not every company offers a quarterly payout.

Big, established firms that have more secure profits are often seen as the best dividend options, but it's fairly uncommon to see high-growth businesses or tech start-ups offer their stockholders a dividend. Income investors must be conscious of the fact that high-yielding stocks tend to struggle during periods of rising interest rates. That said, they can take comfort from the fact that UTL is not only an attractive dividend play, but also represents a compelling investment opportunity with a Zacks Rank of #2 (Buy).




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