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In good times and bad, dividends a welcome bonus

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Stocks » Some Utah companies rock steady with payments — for others it’s revival time.

For a lot of investors, getting a dividend payment on the stocks they own is a welcome event, particularly during these tough times when share-price gains can be as fleeting as the next bit of good economic news out of Washington.

And so far this year, the nine publicly held Utah-based companies that have a history of paying dividends to their shareholders haven’t disappointed.

One, Questar Corp. has announced its 270th consecutive dividend payment, while Nature’s Sunshine Products Inc. indicated it will reinstate its payment to shareholders after more than a two-year lapse.

“One of the lures for investors is they see those stocks (that pay dividends) as producing a consistent flow of income for them,” said Sharla Jessop, vice president at Smedley Financial Services in Salt Lake City. “And there is also the perception that companies that pay dividends are stronger than those that don’t.”

Jessop pointed out, though, that even companies that pay dividends can suffer wide fluctuations in their share prices, and that dividends are not necessarily indicative of strong underlying financials. “Some companies will pay dividends just to attract more investors to their shares.”

Still, the idea of getting a check every quarter, every six months or even every year has its appeal, and nowhere has that payment been more consistent among Utah-based companies than at Questar Corp., whose board of directors this week declared still another in a long line of dividend payments.

Questar’s latest quarter dividend of 16.5 cents per share will be paid to the company’s shareholders on June 11.

“As a utility company, people view us as a value investment and expect us to pay a dividend. And we’ve have been moving toward increasing our dividend payout to 60 percent of our profits,” said Chad Jones, a Questar spokesman.

Nature’s Sunshine, a Provo-based multilevel marketing company whose independent distributors sell nutritional and personal-care products, said last week that its board authorized a quarterly cash dividend of 5 cents per share, or 20 cents per share on a annual basis. The dividend will be paid on May 29 to those whose names are on the company’s shareholders list as of Friday.

“We are pleased with the stability of our revenue, the improvement in our cash flow and the restoration of our strong balance sheet,” CEO Michael Dean said in a statement. “These factors, combined with our growth prospects, have positioned us to reinstate the dividend to our shareholders on the occasion of Nature’s Sunshine’s 40th anniversary.”

Other Utah companies that have declared quarterly dividends in recent weeks are Huntsman Corp., (10 cents per share), Nu Skin Enterprises (20 cents), Utah Medical Products (24 cents) and Zions Bancorp (1 cent).

In addition, three other companies with ties to the state are projected by Bloomberg News to declare dividends by the end of the month. They are Extra Space Storage (20 cents per share), QEP Resources (2 cents) and Skywest Inc. (4 cents).

By STEVEN OBERBECK, | The Salt Lake Tribune, May 16, 2012

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