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JNJ exploits the "bond bubble"
Old 08-12-2010, 05:41 PM   #1
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JNJ exploits the "bond bubble"

Brilliant move -- particularly pay attention to what I've boldfaced:

Johnson & Johnson and the Bond Bubble -- Seeking Alpha

Quote:
Johnson & Johnson sold $1.1 billion of debt at the lowest interest rates on record for 10-year and 30-year securities amid surging investor demand for corporate debt.

The drugmaker, in the first offering by a nonfinancial AAA rated company in 15 months, sold $550 million of 2.95 percent, 10-year notes and the same amount of 4.5 percent, 30-year bonds, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s the lowest coupons for those maturities on record, according to Citigroup Inc. data going back to 1981.
....

JNJ's dividend yields 3.6%. This means that you could issue as much 10-year debt as you can and use it to buy the shares. The stock can rise another 22% from here and you're still getting a higher yield than your interest payments (.036/.0295=1.22). And that doesn't count the likely dividend increases.
The interest on their 10-year borrowing is less than the dividend yield. So they could borrow at 2.95%, use the proceeds to buy back shares which would have paid out 3.6% at today's closing price -- *and* have fewer shares outstanding which increases EPS and the fractional ownership of each remaining share, increasing shareholder value.

Looks like JNJ has found a way to profit on its AAA rating amidst a fearful, yield-starved investing environment. Nicely played.
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Old 08-12-2010, 06:01 PM   #2
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That is in line with my thinking. I was going to buy a bond fund but then I thought, what the heck, why not buy a quality dividend paying company with about the same dividend rate as the interest rate?? JNJ wouldn't be my choice but there are well managed companies out there that pass my smell test. I noticed that the ones I am looking at did not go down today so obviously others are thinking the same thing.

I guess I should put my money where my mouth is and place a couple limit orders to catch the next mini-panic.
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Old 08-12-2010, 06:05 PM   #3
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That is in line with my thinking. I was going to buy a bond fund but then I thought, what the heck, why not buy a quality dividend paying company with about the same dividend rate as the interest rate??
Frankly, I think one has to believe the end of the world is near to think holding a bond yielding 2.95% for ten years is a better investment than holding a top quality stock yielding 3.6% with a long history of reliable dividend increases for the same 10 years. That is quite a testimony to the degree of fear that is out there.
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Old 08-12-2010, 06:23 PM   #4
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What I think people fear is deflation and just want their money back at the end of the day.
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Old 08-13-2010, 02:59 AM   #5
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Frankly, I think one has to believe the end of the world is near to think holding a bond yielding 2.95% for ten years is a better investment than holding a top quality stock yielding 3.6% with a long history of reliable dividend increases for the same 10 years. That is quite a testimony to the degree of fear that is out there.

Yup that is my belief also and why I own JNJ stock and my bond allocation is down to 15%.

It is even a better deal when you consider that JNJ is paying out less than 1/2 its estimated $4.75 earnings and a bit over its 1/3 the $6 cashflow.

Regarding the fear; it is real. Two years JNJ would have been one of the poster stocks I would use for advocating a Dividend Income retirement strategy. Twenty stocks like JNJ (although with 2.5% yield JNJ was a bit on the low side). and 20% cash and CDs and you would enjoy a ~4% yield and good inflation protection.

Now two year latter watching AAA rated GE cuts its dividend and even Berkshire lose it AAA rating. I realize that ratings are a guarantee and dividends can bet cut. I still think it is a mistake to agree to loan money to JNJ for 10 years at 3% and risk inflation loss, along with a small credit risk, vs buying the stock. However, I don't think it is crazy.

It is worth remembering that it wasn't until the 40s and 50s that bond yields exceed dividend yield because of the riskiness of investing in stocks. I guess we are back to the future here.
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Old 08-13-2010, 07:42 AM   #6
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JNJ's dividend yields 3.6%. This means that you could issue as much 10-year debt as you can and use it to buy the shares. The stock can rise another 22% from here and you're still getting a higher yield than your interest payments (.036/.0295=1.22). And that doesn't count the likely dividend increases.
Quote:
Frankly, I think one has to believe the end of the world is near to think holding a bond yielding 2.95% for ten years is a better investment than holding a top quality stock yielding 3.6% with a long history of reliable dividend increases for the same 10 years. That is quite a testimony to the degree of fear that is out there.
Quote:
What I think people fear is deflation and just want their money back at the end of the day.
So its JNJ vs US Treasury.

Im betting on JNJ.
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Old 08-13-2010, 08:04 AM   #7
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So its JNJ vs US Treasury.

Im betting on JNJ.
Even crazier: it is JNJ equity vs. JNJ bonds with the bonds not even yielding more than the stock.
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Old 08-13-2010, 10:17 AM   #8
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Even crazier: it is JNJ equity vs. JNJ bonds with the bonds not even yielding more than the stock.
Time to stock up on guns, ammo, spam and tinfoil?
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Old 08-13-2010, 12:31 PM   #9
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Time to stock up on guns, ammo, spam and tinfoil?
Or stock up on JNJ equity.
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Old 08-13-2010, 01:17 PM   #10
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Even crazier: it is JNJ equity vs. JNJ bonds with the bonds not even yielding more than the stock.

I agree but is worth considering the case when it isn't crazy to own JNJ bonds vs JNJ stock.

As income in the country continues falls, demand for JNJ products fall (I'll take tylenol only when I have a real bad headache and I'll wash the babies hair every three days not every other day.) So while JNJ stock could rise 22% and still yield more than the bonds, the flip side is that if dividend is cut 22% the bonds would yield more than the stock. If 10 years from now the US economy looks like Japan from the last decade. The price of JNJ stock will be lower, and bond holder may have received more income. Most importantly the bond holder will get the all in important return OF capital unlike the equity holder.
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Old 08-13-2010, 01:23 PM   #11
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I agree but is worth considering the case when it isn't crazy to own JNJ bonds vs JNJ stock.

As income in the country continues falls, demand for JNJ products fall (I'll take tylenol only when I have a real bad headache and I'll wash the babies hair every three days not every other day.) So while JNJ stock could rise 22% and still yield more than the bonds, the flip side is that if dividend is cut 22% the bonds would yield more than the stock. If 10 years from now the US economy looks like Japan from the last decade. The price of JNJ stock will be lower, and bond holder may have received more income. Most importantly the bond holder will get the all in important return OF capital unlike the equity holder.
Sure. But I think you would agree that such a position is pretty darned far out on the proverbial limb.

More likely this is crazy retail investor yield chasing.
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Old 08-13-2010, 01:31 PM   #12
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Sure. But I think you would agree that such a position is pretty darned far out on the proverbial limb.

More likely this is crazy retail investor yield chasing.
Agreed, the long depression / decade of deflation scenario that would favor the bonds *could* happen, but it seems to me like a longshot scenario. You pretty much have to believe in that scenario -- or at least fear it so much that you are willing to make suboptimal decisions to "play defense" against it -- to believe the bonds are the right buy here.
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Old 08-13-2010, 04:44 PM   #13
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I bought some Bell/Aliant bonds today yielding over 6%. Is it suboptimal over buying more BCE common stock? (I own a lot of BCE already).

Who knows I guess...so I stick with 50% stock 50% bond/GIC. Who knows!!!

Ok thats enough work for today....(I like to spend 20 mins a day on finance and reading this forum counts imo)
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Old 08-13-2010, 06:09 PM   #14
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Agreed, the long depression / decade of deflation scenario that would favor the bonds *could* happen, but it seems to me like a longshot scenario. You pretty much have to believe in that scenario -- or at least fear it so much that you are willing to make suboptimal decisions to "play defense" against it -- to believe the bonds are the right buy here.
Right. All this money going into bond and bond funds - there's gonna be some pain down the road.
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Old 08-14-2010, 05:59 AM   #15
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They could

1. Sell bonds to borrow the money to
2. Buy their own stock to
3. Give it away in bonuses to top management for dreaming up such a cool deal.

Then everyone (except management) would be left holding the bag.
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Old 08-14-2010, 11:00 AM   #16
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I agree but is worth considering the case when it isn't crazy to own JNJ bonds vs JNJ stock.

As income in the country continues falls, demand for JNJ products fall (I'll take tylenol only when I have a real bad headache and I'll wash the babies hair every three days not every other day.) So while JNJ stock could rise 22% and still yield more than the bonds, the flip side is that if dividend is cut 22% the bonds would yield more than the stock. If 10 years from now the US economy looks like Japan from the last decade. The price of JNJ stock will be lower, and bond holder may have received more income. Most importantly the bond holder will get the all in important return OF capital unlike the equity holder.
This assumes that JNJ is only tied to the US economy. Doesn't JNJ sell a lot overseas?

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Old 08-14-2010, 11:13 AM   #17
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JNJ stock at 15x PE and 1.9x PEG isn't screaming cheap.

It's 10-yr bonds at 30bp over aren't screaming cheap, either. But neither are they ridiculously rich for a Aaa.

I'd have a hard time swapping out of fairly priced bonds into fairly priced stocks unless I was doing something else in my portfolio that reduced my risk profile to compensate for the increased stock allocation.

True, JNJ stock will probably outperform its bonds over the next 10 years, but isn't that generally the working assumption for stocks?
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Old 08-14-2010, 05:50 PM   #18
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I guess what I am asking fundamentally is this are we entering an age where the dividend yields of stock will need to be higher than bond yields. Roughly half of the hundred odd years we have a real stock market, investors have demanded an income premium for holding risky stocks vs safe bonds. Stocks are extremely unpopular among many people (albeit less on this forum) We see this on forum where people ask can I retired without stock or with tortoise portfolio of 80% cash. I am not sure but seems to me we see more of these questions now than we did 3 or 4 or years ago.

While I was pondering this question even asked a business school professor at my investment club meeting. The M* Dividend Newsletter editor Josh Peters commented on this in his weekly email.

Quote:
My long-term skepticism regarding stock returns in the next decade has two basic roots: the unacceptably low yields associated with the market as a whole (a problem we can dodge through intelligent selection of individual stocks), as well as a cultural problem--the growing aversion of savers and investors toward equities. Often the latter is a headwind that can persist for the better part of a generation, but in this hyperactive age, a few data points this week from the bond market make me wonder if perhaps this process is already well on its way toward a point of terminal absurdity.
Consider this: On Thursday, Builder holding Johnson & Johnson JNJ sold $550 million of 10-year notes at a yield of 2.95%. On the same day, J&J's common stock closed with a dividend yield of 3.69%. Yes, you're doing the math correctly: We could set aside any potential for the dividend to grow, or the stock price to rise for an entire decade--in nominal terms at that!--and still pick up 74 basis points (1/100th of a percentage point) of annual cash return by owning Johnson & Johnson common stock instead of this bond.
Yes, I know stock prices can be volatile, and the buyers of these bonds know exactly what they're going to get and when (well, virtually--J&J is a legitimate triple-A credit). But 10 years is a long time to smooth out the bumps. In light of the fact that the bond cannot provide any growth of principal by the time it matures, these stats are properly eye-popping:
  • If J&J grows its earnings per share by 8%--which not exactly a heroic forecast, considering that more than half of that figure could come from share repurchases alone--the company would earn $10.15 a share in 2020. The stock would have to trade for less than six times earnings for investors to see no capital gain--in other words, for it to underperform this bond issue in terms of price alone. And by the end of 10 years, a flat stock price plus a constant payout ratio would spell a dividend yield of 7.97%!
  • Even if we assume J&J's bottom line doesn't grow at all, leaving only share repurchases (I estimate 4.3% worth from retained earnings in a steady-state) as a source of per-share growth, a flat stock price ten years hence would still mean ending up with a P/E of 8.2 and a yield of 5.62%. (Sure, the stock market has bottomed out at high single-digit P/Es in the past, but J&J is hardly a run-of-the-mill member of the market.)
As for income, that 74-basis point spread will grow as Johnson & Johnson raises its dividend. At the 4.3% per-share growth/flat-bottom-line scenario, common shareholders end up with a 267 basis point premium after 10 years; at 8% growth, that widens to 502 basis points. In fact, the accumulation of these dividends--even without the helpful benefit of dividend reinvestment as valuations fall--is large enough that J&J's common stock could actually lose more than 17% of its current market value over 10 long years under the scenarios above and it would still generate results superior to that of these bonds!
Don't get me wrong: Johnson & Johnson is not a perfect company. It might otherwise have been close, but I am uncomfortable with the product recalls announced in the past year (and a little relieved that no more cockroaches have been spotted of late). But J&J is huge, diverse, massively profitable and deeply entrenched in a part of the global economy that is almost certain to grow in the decade to come. Better yet, the stock is now cheaper relative to per-share earnings and dividends than it's been in decades. With these figures in mind, let alone any fear of inflation making a comeback before the year 2020, why would anyone buy the bond over the stock?
Because it is a bond, of course! Don't we all know by now that the stock market is always a terrible place to invest? Don't we all know that bonds guarantee us our money back? (As long as the issuer stays solvent--no real problem in this case--and the buyer doesn't particularly care how much that money will buy ten long years from now …) I'm being sarcastic, of course, but I'm not sure how else to react. If investors are so determined to own bonds for the sake of their being bonds, this is the kind of comparisons we get.
Johnson and Johnson hasn't been alone in raising some very cheap dough from the increasingly desperate buyers of bonds. Among others, Harvest holdings Magellan Midstream Partners MMP and NuStar Energy NS both dipped their hands into that gushing well this month, and the comparison in yields may be just as remarkable. Magellan raised $300 million at a yield of 4.29% on Aug. 4; on that day, the units were priced to yield 5.92%. Not only is the yield premium for the equity of 163 basis points more than double that of J&J, but with its regulated revenues tied directly to the Producer Price Index, Magellan's equity is a very attractive hedge against any rise in inflation. (No one is likely to describe these low-yielding bonds that way.) The interest rate of the bond, naturally, is fixed for the full 10-year term. For its part, NuStar's $450 million issue at 4.82% gave its units a still-larger yield premium of 244 basis points.
This all adds up to an incredibly obvious disconnect in the markets that has appears to have little or nothing to do with potential risks and returns. An academic might say this is a bet on outright deflation, but I'm not prepared to give the market that much credit for sense of purpose. This is no more than the pursuit of past performance, in my view, and may end no more joyfully than the performance-chasing of the past 20 years.
The stocks and partnership units I've mentioned may not be at world-beating bargain levels, though J&J is trading comfortably below my Dividend Buy price of $68. It may well be that stock vs. bond comparisons like these are actually telling us that these corporate bond issues are overpriced--yielding too little and bound to disappoint today's eager buyers. Either way, despite with my ho-hum secular attitude toward stocks, I'm happy to own some good, healthy yielding ones over bonds like these any day. If this goes on much longer, I may even have to haul out the S-word: silly.
Since this is already a long post, I won't comment much further about Josh's analysis.

But I will ask two questions.
Is there any fundamental reason why stocks should not have a higher yield than bonds? They are after all much riskier
If this becomes the new normal what is the implication for retirement saving and withdrawals?
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Old 08-14-2010, 05:54 PM   #19
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Is there any fundamental reason why stocks should not have a higher yield than bonds?
Stock dividends tend to rise over time. Bond interest is fixed.

Stock ownership allows investors to participate in the growth of a business. And if I didn't think a business was going to grow earnings or dividends I probably wouldn't be too comfortable holding their bonds, either.

Not to say there aren't counterarguments but there are certainly reasons why one might expect bonds to yield more than stocks.

This guy's analysis sounds a little "Death of Equities" to me. I'm all for challenging the conventional wisdom, but still...
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Old 08-14-2010, 06:22 PM   #20
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I guess what I am asking fundamentally is this are we entering an age where the dividend yields of stock will need to be higher than bond yields. Roughly half of the hundred odd years we have a real stock market, investors have demanded an income premium for holding risky stocks vs safe bonds. Stocks are extremely unpopular among many people (albeit less on this forum) We see this on forum where people ask can I retired without stock or with tortoise portfolio of 80% cash. I am not sure but seems to me we see more of these questions now than we did 3 or 4 or years ago.

While I was pondering this question even asked a business school professor at my investment club meeting. The M* Dividend Newsletter editor Josh Peters commented on this in his weekly email.

Since this is already a long post, I won't comment much further about Josh's analysis.

But I will ask two questions.
Is there any fundamental reason why stocks should not have a higher yield than bonds? They are after all much riskier
If this becomes the new normal what is the implication for retirement saving and withdrawals?
I tend to think that this will be temporary. This in no way implies that stocks overall are cheap; I don't think they are. Only that bonds are way expensive. If we were comparing hghly speculative companies' stocks vs. their bonds perhaps a case could be made to prefer the bonds. But we aren't. JNJ is blue chip; NuStar (NSH, GP of NuStar is one of my largest holdings) and Magellan will prosper as long as there are liquid fuels to be put into their pipes. It may be though that the aging population of retirees will require a higher risk premium, which from my POV is all to the good for one who is primarily a stock investor over time. Remember back in 1999 when that Glassman idiot who wrote for the Washington Post stated his opinion that there should be no risk premium at all?

Amazon.com: Dow 36,000: The New Strategy for Profiting From the Coming Rise in the Stock Market (9780609806999): James K. Glassman, Kevin A. Hassett: Books

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