Sage Group Plc ($LON:SGE) is entering the Noble 30 index as a pure-play European dividend aristocrat with 33 years of consecutive dividend growth. It is a company which I initially overlooked, but this is why I love the community so much, because Daniel brought it to my attention earlier this year in the summer.
To be honest, I don’t add companies just like that to the Noble 30. First of all I want to do my own due diligence to check if it’s indeed a valid candidate to enter the index. Secondly I prefer to make changes only once a quarter so that we limit the amount of ad-hoc changes and maintenance.
Having said that, Sage Group Plc ticks all the boxes, because it has not cut their dividend since the Great Recession and it has a market cap above 5 billion Euro (7.1 Bln).
Sage Group Plc replaces Sodexo SA
In this particular case the company is replacing Sodexo SA which announced a full dividend cut on the 29th of October when publishing their fiscal 2020 numbers.
Sodexo SA is leaving the index after at least 24 years of stable and growing dividends.
Unfortunately the company couldn’t weather this storm from a dividend perspective and that’s no surprise. Covid-19 doesn’t negotiate and couldn’t care less about a companies impact due to lockdowns and such.
The below revenues statement by segment explains it all, because HY 2020 was running from March until the end of August. This is exactly the period when covid-19 started to impact Europe and the United States and you can see that it resulted in a drop of 27.5% in Total Group revenue.
So there we have it. That’s the reason Sodexo’s out. Nothing more, nothing less.
Having said that, let’s have a brief look at Sage Group Plc as a replacement for Sodexo.
Brief introduction of Sage Group Plc
Sage Group Plc is an enterprise software company with its headquarter located in Newcastle, United Kingdom. The company was founded in 1981 by David Goldman, Paul Muller and Graham Wylie.
The company grew really quick and in 1988 it entered the North-American market via the acquisition of PeachTree. This was also the moment where the history really started as a listed company.
And as you can see, it had quite a run up during the late nineties during the internet bubble. It has yet to reach their all-time highs 20 years later.
Sage Group Plc is quite a global player with locations in 23 countries. The company is particularly known for its enterprise resource planning software, but it’s not the industry leader. This place is occupied by SAP and Oracle.
We can actually say that the company lost quite its mojo over the recent years and this has been reflected in the share price, because it went almost nowhere in the last 5 years.
It’s not that the underlying numbers are that bad. They have been able to transition quite some customers to the cloud and their renewal rates are very high.
However, last week they also reported their fiscal 2020 results and the stock price reacted with a 14% immediate drop. This is similar to what we’ve seen with SAP a few weeks ago. The reason for this is a steep decline of 26% in non-subscription revenue and a 17 Million Gbp expected bad debt provision related to the pandemic.
I personally think that Sage will keep struggling a bit going forward until it has fully transitioned its portfolio into subscription services only. Their profit margins are under pressure and this will have to stabilize first so that the impact of revenue growth will be reflected in growth in their earning per share numbers.
Sage Group Plc Dividend History facts
So let’s look into their Dividend history then, because this surely must be impressive to get included in the Noble 30 index 😉
Let’s just start with their dividend growth history chart.
The impressive thing about Sage Group’s dividend history is the fact that it always increased their dividend since 1988 (33 consecutive years). There was not 1 year where they have frozen their dividend and this is really unique for a European company.
|Decade||Average Dividend Growth %|
|2011 – 2020||5,87%|
|2001 – 2010||33,77%|
|1991 – 2000||9,14%|
But as you can see, more recently the company started to grow it’s dividend quicker than it’s earnings per share. This has resulted in a payout ratio which is hovering between 50% and more recently 75% over the last decade.
What is important to know is that these are IFRS EPS numbers. There seems to be a continuous gap between their basic EPS numbers and their IFRS EPS numbers. The gap has actually averaged 17.5% over the last 10 years, so please be conscious of that when analyzing their financial statements.
Having said that, the stock currently yields 2.86% with a 5 year dividend growth rate of 4.04% and the latest increase of 2.01%. I think that these numbers speak for itself and it’s a clear sign of a company having headwinds.
I always find this interesting, because if I read their FY 2020 presentation then it’s again a typical good news show.
Sage Group Plc Fundamentals
They have definitely inspired me to create something similar as a quick snapshot and below are the numbers which I’m typically interested in.
As you can see, from a fundamental point of view the company is in a pretty good position when purely looking at their numbers.
Their balance sheet seems strong and this is evident when seeing 848 Million of cash and cash equivalents on there. I would say that they have enough firing power to keep continuing adding new acquisitions to their portfolio.
To sum it up: I see no red flags in their current fundamentals. This means that the company is in a pretty good situation to continue a path of growth once they get rid of their “legacy” while pivoting into a subscription based revenue model.
Needless to say, it starts off course with excellent user experience for their software products including optimal pricing. I have no idea about Sage Group Plc software products, so I would love to hear your comments about it. Are they more like “old-style” as SAP SE or is their product line more like Workday?
My thoughts about the stock
It’s really nice to see another Information Technology stock entering the Noble 30 index. It’s also a company with 33 years of consecutive dividend growth which gives it a 7th place in the list. That’s quite a nice entry and I still wonder how I have been able to overlook this stock.
Personally I would like to not own this stock yet at this valuation. I would rather like to see a P/E of 15 (compared to ~22) for a company with flat EPS and struggles in pivoting towards a full revenue subscription model.
Neither would I feel comfortable building out a position in this stock without having experienced some of their products myself. I would really need to do some more homework by watching videos and speaking to users to get an understanding of their user experience.
I know what both SAP and Workday have to offer and both are far from perfect. However, there’s still a significant difference noticeable between the two of them and I rank Workday much higher in that regard.
Having said that, let’s welcome Sage Group Plc into the Noble 30 index and let’s wish them a very long membership which will last for years to come.
Later this weekend I will update all the Noble 30 related lists and statistics on this blog after the inclusion of Sage Group Plc.
I will also update the Trading 212 Noble 30 Pie, so that in the upcoming months the Sage Group Plc will be purchased as part of my monthly contribution.
I do invest monthly in the noble 30 pie which means that I will sell my shares in Sodexo and use the cash to replace them with shares in Sage Group Plc.
Last but not least, Siemens also cut its dividend by 13% the other day. I will let you know soon by whom the company will be replaced, so stay tuned!
European Dividend Growth Investor
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