Gold Miners Get in the Dividend Game

12/15/2011 3:40 pm EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

Gold mining companies are getting the dividend religion too. They’re adding dividend payouts in an effort to close the “attractiveness gap” with gold ETFs.

Back on November 25, I wrote about the general resurgence of dividends. Given the lack of any capital appreciation in the current market and an increasing cynicism among investors about stock buybacks, companies have started to increase dividend yields as a way to support share prices and keep on the good side of capital markets.

Gold-mining companies have an added incentive. The rising popularity of gold ETFs has come at the expense of gold-mining shares. Investors who want to create a hedge on inflation or currency depreciation can use ETFs as their vehicle, instead of buying shares of gold-mining companies.

The demand for gold ETFs has cut into the demand for gold-mining shares so much that gold-mining stocks have lagged increases in the price of gold. So, for example, while gold is 46% higher than it was in December 2009 (as of the close on December 13), shares of Barrick (ABX) are just 26% higher.

But neither physical gold nor gold ETFs pay a dividend…and this seems to be how gold-mining companies—some of them, anyway—have decided that they can compete.

Goldcorp (GG), for instance, has increased its monthly payout to 3.4 cents a share, from 3 cents in November 2010 and 1.5 cents a share in 2009. IAMgold (IAG) raised its dividend on December 9 to an annual 25 cents a share, up from last year’s 6 cents a share payout.

The most ambitious effort comes from Newmont Mining (NEM), which has pledged to link its dividend payout to the price of gold.

None of this makes any gold stock a high-yield dividend play. Goldcorp pays a dividend yield of 1%. IAMGold is at 1.1%, Newmont Mining at 1.6%. That’s still way below the payout of oil shares. And it’s not enough to make up the appreciation gap between ETFs and gold-mining stocks.

But for an industry that for a long time has thought that a bigger-is-better acquisition strategy was the ultimate in adding shareholder value, this new awareness of dividend yield is radical thinking.

Full disclosure: I don’t own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this post in my personal portfolio. The mutual fund I manage, Jubak Global Equity Fund, may or may not now own positions in any stock mentioned in this post. The fund did own shares of Goldcorp as of the end of September. For a full list of the stocks in the fund as of the end of September see the fund’s portfolio here.

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