by Aaron Levitt | November 15, 2013 11:39 am
As high-frequency trading and hedge funds have become more commonplace, many investors have focused their attention more toward scoring big, quick capital gains, and forgotten about the benefits of steady cash flows in the form of regular dividends.
That’s a real shame, because dividends can be a powerful portfolio tool — especially for those firms that continuously raise their payouts. Compounding dividend payments can lead to overall larger total returns than just focusing on share price alone.
For example, if you own a stock that pays out $1,000 in dividends every year and grows that payout by 8% annually, you’ll get a check for about $20,000 after 40 years. That’s a pretty nice payout. However, if you reinvest those dividends each year, the amount of income you generate is truly staggering — that stream surges to roughly $58,500 each year!
So, how can investors can find those “dividend achievers” that continually raise their payouts for decades?
Easy. Just read on as we look at five of the most Dependable Dividend Stocks in energy, listed by yield:
Current Yield: 2.8%
Providing natural gas and propane to consumers around the globe is an immensely profitable business, and UGI Corporation (UGI) has been using the profits to reward its shareholders since 1885.
UGI not only operates a diversified system of midstream assets and pipelines, but also natural gas utility assets in Pennsylvania. Those provide plenty of stable cash flows for the firm.
However, the kicker for UGI comes from its unregulated propane distribution businesses.
The firm is the general partner of propane master limited partnership AmeriGas (APU). That entitles UGI to some hefty incentive distribution rights, as well as dividends from the 26% of APU units it owns. APU is currently yielding around 7.8% itself. UGI also owns/operates several propane subsidiaries in Europe, including the largest distributor in Austria and Denmark. More recently, UGI has made moves into China to provide liquefied propane gas (LPG).
That all has helped UGI pay dividends for the last 128 consecutive years! And like the rest of the firms on this list, UGI has raised its dividend in each of the past 26 years and offers impressive 75% dividend growth over the past decade.
Current Yield: 2.8%
While major integrated energy giant Exxon Mobil (XOM) has had some issues lately with trying to raise production, it’s still an earnings powerhouse. For the latest quarter, XOM still managed to earn roughly $7.87 billion in profits.
That’s more than some firms will make in an entire year.
More importantly, XOM continues to share with investors all that cash it makes from drilling and refining crude oil and natural gas. Exxon Mobil spent about $3 billion on share buybacks in the latest quarter and has authorized another $3 billion for this quarter. The company also has been returning cash back to shareholders via a dividend since 1882, and with the latest 10.5% increase announced back in April, XOM has had 31 straight years of rising payouts.
As another vote of confidence, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) just revealed a $3.45 billion stake in XOM.
Despite many investors recent favoring of faster moving shale producers — like Range Resources (RRC) — Exxon’s steady “bond-like” nature shouldn’t be lost on long-term portfolios. There’s plenty of dividend growth ahead.
Current Yield: 3.3%
Let’s face facts: Utilities are some of the most boring stocks on the planet. There’s nothing particularly exciting about providing electricity, water and natural gas to the general public.
However, that boring nature can be very fruitful for income investors. Just take natural gas utility Atmos Energy (ATO).
ATO is one of the country’s largest natural gas-focused utilities and provides the fuel to more than 3 million customers across eight different states. Atmos owns some pretty extensive natural gas pipeline and storage infrastructure, including one of the largest intrastate natural gas pipeline systems in Texas.
That size and scope has allowed ATO to pay steady dividends since 1984.
However, those payouts haven’t been static. On the back of stronger earnings, the natural gas utility recently increased its payout by 5.7% to 37 cents a share per quarter, or $1.48 annually. This higher payout now represents the 26th consecutive year that ATO has increased its dividend.
With stronger residential and commercial natural gas demand on the horizon, investors in ATO shares should expect more dividend increases down the road.
Current Yield: 3.3%
Like integrated rival Exxon, Chevron (CVX) is a profit-making machine. The former piece of Rockefeller’s Standard Oil practically has a license to mint money as oil prices and demand continue to rise.
Overall, Chevron’s size and global scope has allowed it avoid some of the production issues at its main rival — all while paying a higher dividend as well. Its current yield of 3.3% is larger than XOM’s.
Meanwhile, North America’s second largest integrated energy company has had an equally good commitment to rewarding shareholders via dividends. Chevron has managed to pay a steady dividend since 1912 and has increased its payouts for the last 26 consecutive years. The latest increase boosted that payout to $1 quarterly.
Yet, more gains could be in store. CVX features a ridiculously low payout ratio of just 31%, meaning there’s plenty of room for the oil stock to raise payouts even further. Analysts estimate that CVX could increase its dividend to $1.10 per quarter next year. There’s certainly evidence to suggest it will. Over the past 10 years, CVX has managed to increase its dividends by just under 10% a year.
Current Yield: 4.3%
They say “If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.”
That certainly has been true for investors in multi-utility Consolidated Edison (ED). The firm provides regulated electric, natural gas and steam delivery services to customers in New York City and Westchester County. That position as the Big Apple’s primary utility has provided its investors with some juicy cash flows over the years.
ConEd has paid a dividend every year since 1885.
What’s equally impressive as 128 years’ worth of paying dividends is ED’s commitment to raising those payouts. The utility’s latest increase of 1.7% — due to increased capex spending from the effects of Hurricane Sandy — marks the 39th consecutive year of higher payouts. ConEd also has the distinction of being the only utility in the S&P 500 to raise its dividend for 25 or more consecutive years.
With strong cash flows from its regulated businesses as well as a relatively low payout ratio, investors in ED should be treated to rising dividends for another century.
As of this writing, Aaron Levitt did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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