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Dividend Kings in Focus: Nucor Corporation

Updated on November 8th, 2023

The Dividend Kings are a selective group of stocks that have increased their dividends for at least 50 years in a row. We believe the Dividend Kings are among the highest-quality dividend growth stocks to buy and hold for the long term.

With this in mind, we created a full list of all the Dividend Kings.

You can download the full list, along with important financial metrics such as dividend yields and price-to-earnings ratios, by clicking the link below:


A relatively new member to join this list is Nucor Corporation (NUE), an American steel giant that has successfully navigated the significant cyclicality and foreign competition facing the industry over the years in order to consistently grow its dividend and create value for shareholders.

This article will discuss the company’s business overview, growth prospects, competitive advantages, and expected returns.

Business Overview

Nucor is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina and is a giant in the steel industry as the largest publicly traded US-based steel corporation based on its market capitalization. The company currently operates in three segments: Steel Mills (the largest segment by revenue), Steel Products, and Raw Materials.

The steel industry is notoriously cyclical, which makes Nucor’s streak of 50 consecutive years of dividend increases even more remarkable. The company faces challenges from international competitors. Some countries (including China), subsidize their steel industry, making steel exported to the United States artificially cheap.

Nucor manufactures a wide variety of material types, including sheet steel, steel bars, structural formations, steel plates, downstream products, and raw materials. The majority of the company’s production comes from a combination of sheet and bar steel, as has been the case for many years.

Source: Investor Presentation

Nucor has been successful over the long-term due to its focus on low-cost production. This allows it to maintain profitability during downturns and produce significant operating leverage during better times. In addition, it has worked to expand its product offerings to new markets while maintaining and growing its market leadership in existing channels.

On October 23, 2023, Nucor Corporation released its third-quarter earnings report for 2023. The report revealed consolidated net earnings attributable to Nucor stockholders of $1.14 billion, or $4.57 per diluted share. This marked a decrease from earnings of $1.46 billion in Q2 2023 and $1.69 billion or $6.50 per diluted share in Q3 2022.

The consolidated net sales decreased by 8% to $8.78 billion in Q3 2023 compared to $9.52 billion in Q2 2023. The company also repurchased approximately 3.0 million shares of its common stock at an average price of $168.99 per share during Q3 2023.

Growth Prospects

We believe that Nucor’s earnings-per-share are likely to decline by 6.5% per year over the next five years. Nucor’s earnings-per-share fluctuate with steel prices. The company’s previous all-time earnings-per-share high came in
2008, which coincided with the all-time high price of steel in the US. The factors driving the enormous earnings of 2021 and 2022 are simply unsustainable.

For the long-term, Nucor’s markets have a largely favorable growth outlook. Nucor’s diversification in terms of end markets also offers some relative stability when downturns strike. This helps the company perform well compared to other steel makers during recessions.

Nucor is also investing in growth initiatives that include harvesting new revenue synergies, improving operational and supply chain efficiencies, and expanding the businesses’ product offerings and geographic footprint.

Competitive Advantages & Recession Performance

Nucor is a manufacturer and distributor of steel, which – like the vast majority of raw materials businesses – is fundamentally a commodity product and therefore subject almost entirely to price as its sole differentiator.

Warren Buffett has the following to say about commodity businesses:

“Stocks of companies selling commodity-like products should come with a warning label: ‘Competition may prove hazardous to human wealth.’” – Warren Buffett

Certainly, commodity businesses are not the most defensive businesses thanks to their cyclicality. This can be seen by looking at Nucor’s performance during the 2007-2009 financial crisis:

As a commodity producer, Nucor is vulnerable to fluctuations in the price of steel. Steel demand is tied to construction and the overall economy. During the Great Recession, the company saw earnings-per-share decline from $6.01 in 2008 to a loss of $0.94 in 2009, and the stock lost two-thirds of its market capitalization in just six months. Investors should be aware of the significant downside risk of Nucor as it is likely to perform poorly in a protracted recession.

Valuation & Expected Total Returns

We assume a normalized earnings power-per-share of $13.26 for 2023, to smooth out the cyclicality of results. That puts the price-to-earnings power ratio at 11.6, which is slightly below our fair value estimate of 12.0. For steel producers we remain more cautious than the general market, in no small part due to the volatility of commodity prices.

As a result of our modeling assumptions, Nucor is slightly undervalued today. An expanding valuation multiple could boost annual returns by 0.7% over the next five years.

In addition, NUE stock has a current dividend yield of 1.3%. Finally, we expect NUE’s earnings-per-share to decline by 6.5% per yer. As a result, total returns are expected to be negative. This means NUE stock is currently rated a sell.

Final Thoughts

Nucor’s status as a Dividend King helps it to stand out among the highly volatile materials sector. There are very few raw materials businesses that have multi-decade track records of compounding their dividends and adjusted earnings-per-share.

Nucor has a low dividend yield when compared to the broader stock market, but the company has a long history of annual dividend increases. Nucor also has a strong industry position and a healthy balance sheet.

However, the stock does not merit a buy recommendation at the current price given its negative expected returns. For investors that are looking for raw materials exposure, we recommend waiting for a better opportunity to acquire shares of Nucor.

The following articles contain stocks with very long dividend or corporate histories, ripe for selection for dividend growth investors:

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