Nucor CEO Defends His Dividend

Famous last words:

“We've got many, many years ahead of us of a strong cycle for commodities. Now, the trend will be upwards very strongly, I would say, for another 15 to 20 years, and that doesn't mean that there won't be ups and downs, but the downs will be short-lived and the trend will be upwards.”

That was Nucor Chairman, President and CEO Dan DiMicco just before steel prices and his company’s stock peaked. Of course, the commodities decline has been sudden and sharp, affecting everything from steel to oil to copper and their related stocks, Nucor included.

But DiMicco appeared on Mad Money Tuesday reiterating his call that the downturn we’re seeing is just part of the “ups and downs” he mentioned before. He did admit, though, that “we didn’t anticipate a financial crisis of the scale that we’re seeing today. Nobody did.”

DiMicco called the credit crisis a “once in a lifetime situation,” adding that he’s “never seen anything like this” in his 32 years in the business. But the demand for steel is global, he said. And as developing countries improve their standard of living and the U.S. builds out its infrastructure, Nucor and the steel industry will rebound.

In the meantime, Nucor’s base dividend of $1.28 a year, or 3.6%, is “rock solid,” the CEO said. The 80 cents a year the company pays out in a supplemental special dividend will hold up as long as business is strong and profits are increasing. And that should happen, since Nucor has a highly variable cost structure that allows the company to make money even when steel prices are down. (For more on that, watch DiMicco’s explanation in this video.)

Cramer knows that Nucor’s survived big downturns before and the dividend never suffered. And that’s the reason he recommended the stock and its yield on Tuesday. He’s bullish on NUE.

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