Blue Chips That Provide Safety, Dividend Growth

Tuesday, 12 Apr 2011 02:47 PM

By Dan Weil

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Given the extreme volatility in financial markets during the past 3½ years, many investors are searching for safety. Blue-chip stocks with dividends provide that security, offering relatively stable share prices and regular payouts to shareholders.

Blue-chip companies that consistently raise their dividends are even better. Three that fit that bill at the moment are Coca-Cola (KO), Procter & Gamble (PG), and Altria Group (MO).

Coke

This Warren Buffet favorite has boosted its dividend more than 50 percent during the past five years and offers a yield of 2.8 percent.

Coke’s profit soared 74 percent last year to $11.8 billion from $6.8 billion in 2009. The company is experiencing strong growth in emerging markets and is taking market share away from rival Pepsi in North America.

Buffett remains bullish. In his 2011 investment letter, the Berkshire Hathaway CEO predicted Coke’s dividend will double within 10 years. “By the end of that period, I wouldn’t be surprised to see our share of Coke’s annual earnings exceed 100 percent of what we paid for the investment,” he wrote.

Procter & Gamble

Another Buffett holding, P&G has raised its dividend by 56 percent during the past four years, putting its yield at 3.1 percent. The world’s largest consumer-goods company garnered profit from continuing operations of $3.3 billion in its second fiscal quarter ended Dec. 31, up 5.8 percent from a year earlier.

The company’s depth of products and breadth of geographical reach give it buoyancy in difficult times, such as the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, and ballast in strong periods.

“Procter & Gamble is an example of the perfect dividend growth stock,” write analysts at Dividend Growth Investors. “It has strong brand recognition, solid competitive advantages as well as a diverse portfolio of products sold throughout the world.”

Altria

The tobacco giant has more than doubled its dividend during the last four years, producing a current yield of 5.7 percent. Altria registered net income of $3.9 billion in 2010, up 22 percent from $3.2 billion a year earlier.

Price increases on the company’s cigarettes have offset a decline in shipments. Marlboro, the country’s best-selling cigarette, boosted its market share by 0.6 percentage point to 42.3 percent in the fourth quarter.

“We see MO revenues rising about 3 percent in 2011, as higher pricing, line extensions and new product introductions offset declining consumption,” writes Standard & Poor’s analyst Esther Kwon, who has a five-star buy rating on the stock.

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