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The investor relations section of a company’s website will often include dividend history information, however; third-party websites can also be valuable resources to investors. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The investor relations section of a company’s website will often include dividend history information, however; third-party websites can also be valuable resources to investors. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

INVESTOR CLINIC

Digging for dividend data? Help is here Add to ...

I have recently decided to invest a portion of my portfolio in dividend stocks. You recommend seeking companies that have a long history of raising their dividends. Where do you look to find a company’s dividend history?

The investor relations section of a company’s website often includes a detailed dividend history. Many companies also provide a general investor presentation that typically contains an overview of the business and detailed financial information, including historical charts for revenue, earnings and dividends. This material, and the company’s annual and quarterly reports, are must reads if you are considering an investment.

Sadly, not all companies make historical dividend data easily available. (And aside to these companies: If you’re not posting detailed quarterly dividend information going back at least a decade, you are needlessly frustrating current and prospective investors who should be able to find the figures with a quick search. For a model of how dividend data should be presented, see BCE’s website. The only thing I would change is that I would list the most recent dividends first, instead of last.)

If you strike out with the company’s website, third-party sites can help. For example, if you create a watchlist on Globeinvestor.com and choose the “dividends” view, you’ll get a column with the five-year dividend growth rate and another column with the one-year growth rate. You can then click on the company name to get a stock quote, which – if you scroll down – includes a five-year chart of quarterly dividends.

Another source of five-year dividend data is Morningstar.ca. After entering the stock symbol, click on “performance” and then “dividends and splits.” Yet another useful site is dividendhistory.org. One of the site’s handy features is that it keeps a running list of Canadian and U.S. companies that have recently raised, or cut, their dividends.

Not sure where to start your search for great dividend stocks? My Strategy Lab model dividend portfolio will give you some suggestions. Another source of ideas is the list of stocks held by dividend exchange-traded funds. I recently wrote about seven of the largest Canadian dividend ETFs. Many of these funds publish a complete list of holdings on the ETF provider’s website (some only list the top 10). If you see the same name popping up in several different ETFs, it indicates that the company has passed various dividend screens and may be a good candidate for your own portfolio.

What is the difference, if any, between the adjusted cost base for a stock investment and the book value that is reported on my discount brokerage statement? Can I use the broker’s book value for calculating my capital gains?

Book value, or what some brokers call “average cost,” is another name for the adjusted cost base (ACB) of an investment. It represents the total amount invested – including commissions, less any return of capital distributions – divided by the number of shares or units.

I have checked my discount broker’s average cost against my own ACB per share calculations and, while they generally match up, there have been exceptions. For that reason, brokers typically include a disclaimer telling clients not to rely on the financial institution’s calculations.

As my broker states: “Calculating average cost for the purposes of income tax is the responsibility of the client. The average cost is provided for informational purposes only and BMO InvestorLine cannot guarantee the completeness or the accuracy of the information.”

One reason brokers can’t guarantee accuracy is that a client may also hold shares of the same security at a different financial institution. Those shares would affect the client’s ACB, but the broker would have no way of knowing about them and would not include them in its own ACB calculation.

What I always suggest is that you keep your own detailed records and calculate the ACB yourself, then compare it with the broker’s ACB (assuming all of your shares are with the same broker). If the numbers match up, you can be fairly certain they are accurate. If not, you may want to double check your math or contact the broker for an explanation.

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Follow on Twitter: @johnheinzl

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