Yesterday, on the latest day possible (when rivals like JB Hi-Fi have reported weeks ago) in the June 30 reporting season, Harvey Norman produced a very solid set of figures — sales and profits up sharply, and the company is zinging along. Harvey Norman shares hit an eight-year high yesterday, making Gerry Harvey and his family (who own more than 30% of the shares) richer.
Dividends were raised for 2015-16 to an interim of 13 cents a share (from 9 cents) and a final of 17 cents a share (from a final last year of 11 cents). That makes a total of 30 cents a share for the year, up a very impressive 50%, but still short of the total of 34 cents a share paid for 2014-15 (which included a 14 cents a share special dividend). Shareholders though won’t quibble very much because 30 cents is close to 34 cents. But (and isn’t there always a but?) the final dividend won’t be paid until December 1. That was after the interim dividend was announced on February 26, but not paid until May 2.
Now there is no reason for such a long delay in payment. For example, JB Hi-Fi, the biggest competitor to Gerry Harvey’s retail empire, announced its dividend on August 15 and will pay it on September 9. The Commonwealth Bank announced its final on August 10 and will pay it on September 29. And miner Independence Group yesterday said its 2 cents a share final would be paid on September 23. Gerry Harvey and others in his company can’t excuse the delay by saying the CBA is a big bank. Harvey Norman is a big retailer, with a market value of well over $5.9 billion.
JB Hi-Fi is, in fact, smaller than Harvey Norman with a market cap of less than half Harvey’s at just over $2.9 billion. And yet it managed a dividend payment period more than two months quicker than the bigger and wealthier Harvey Norman. At last report, Harvey, and his family controlled around 36% of Harvey Norman’s shares, so Harvey would argue they are in the same boat. But they don’t have to be if they are as generous about paying out dividends to shareholders as quickly as possible. After all, isn’t the fiction that shareholders are the owners of the company?