Dividend Yield – Investors May Be The Victims Of Pathetic Manipulation – Seth Klarman

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Recently I had a conversation with a close friend of mine regarding one of his stocks. He told me that one particular stock was performing so badly that if he sold his current position he would stand to lose $20,000. I asked him why he initially bought the stock and he told me that it pays a good dividend. This situation is not uncommon for a lot of investors that chase dividend yield without any consideration for the price they pay for the stock.

It seems timely to remember what Seth Klarman wrote in his book – Margin of Safety regarding buying stocks solely on the basis of dividend yield.

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

Dividend Yield

Why is my discussion of dividend yield so short? Although at one time a measure of a business’s prosperity, it has become a relic: stocks should simply not be bought on the basis of their dividend yield. Too often struggling companies sport high dividend yields, not because the dividends have been increased, but because the share prices have fallen. Fearing that the stock price will drop further if the dividend is cut, managements maintain the payout, weakening the company even more.

Investors buying such stocks for their ostensibly high yields may not be receiving good value. On the contrary, they may be the victims of a pathetic manipulation. The high dividend paid by such companies is not a return on invested capital but rather a return of capital that represents the liquidation of the underlying business. This manipulation was widely used by money-center banks through most of the 1980s.

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