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In compiling the Dividend Champions list (found here: http://dripinvesting.org/Tools/Tools.asp ) I get to see which companies are nearing the anniversaries of their previous dividend increases. Since most of these firms raise their payout about the same time every year, I can say with some confidence that they are likely to do so again.

Goodbye, Fiscal Cliff

Anticipating possible changes in dividend taxation, some companies that normally announce increases in January accelerated those into 2012, so we had fewer dividend hikes to start the year. But a faster pace is expected during February and March, which coincides with the usual "forward look" of about 11 weeks for this article.

I have modified the Expected Increase series to reflect a more SA-friendly format by separating the Champions, Contenders, and Challengers into distinct groupings, so please look for the other articles, which I hope will be published about the same time.

Based on last year's announcements, I'm expecting the following companies to announce dividend increases between now and the anniversary of the Ex-Dividend Date of their previous increase:

Dividend Challengers (5-9 years):

Company

Ticker

No.

12/31

Div.

MR%

LY

Ann.

Name

Symbol

Yrs

Price

Yield

Inc.

Ex-Div

Div.

Williams-Sonoma Inc.

(NYSE:WSM)

7

43.77

2.01

29.41

1/25/12

0.88

CMS Energy Corp.

(NYSE:CMS)

6

24.38

3.94

14.29

2/8/12

0.96

TECO Energy Inc.

(NYSE:TE)

6

16.76

5.25

2.33

2/9/12

0.88

CenterPoint Energy

(NYSE:CNP)

7

19.25

4.21

2.53

2/14/12

0.81

Robert Half International

(NYSE:RHI)

9

31.82

1.89

7.14

2/22/12

0.60

Dun & Bradstreet Corp.

(NYSE:DNB)

6

78.65

1.93

5.56

2/24/12

1.52

Brookfield Infrastructure

(NYSE:BIP)

5

35.25

4.26

7.14

2/27/12

1.50

Compass Minerals Int'l

(NYSE:CMP)

9

74.71

2.65

10.00

2/28/12

1.98

L-3 Communications

(NYSE:LLL)

9

76.62

2.61

11.11

2/28/12

2.00

Lorillard Inc.

(NYSE:LO)

5

38.89

5.31

19.23

2/28/12

2.07

National Research Corp.

(NRCI)

8

54.20

1.92

18.18

2/29/12

1.04

Coca-Cola Enterprises

(NYSE:CCE)

5

31.73

2.02

23.08

3/7/12

0.64

National Interstate Corp.

(NASDAQ:NATL)

8

28.82

1.39

11.11

3/7/12

0.40

Westar Energy

(NYSE:WR)

8

28.62

4.61

3.13

3/7/12

1.32

Constellation Software

(OTCPK:CNSWF)

6

120.00

3.33

100.00

3/8/12

4.00

Silgan Holdings Inc.

(NASDAQ:SLGN)

9

41.54

1.16

9.09

3/8/12

0.48

Digital Realty Trust

(NYSE:DLR)

8

67.89

4.30

7.35

3/13/12

2.92

NorthWestern Corp.

(NYSE:NWE)

8

34.73

4.26

2.78

3/13/12

1.48

Kinross Gold Corp.

(NYSE:KGC)

5

9.72

1.65

33.33

3/21/12

0.16

Sempra Energy

(NYSE:SRE)

9

70.94

3.38

25.00

3/22/12

2.40

Deere & Company

(NYSE:DE)

9

86.42

2.13

12.20

3/28/12

1.84

Equity LifeStyle Prop.

(NYSE:ELS)

8

67.29

2.60

16.67

3/28/12

1.75

Flowserve Corp.

(NYSE:FLS)

6

146.80

0.98

12.50

3/28/12

1.44

MR=Most Recent

There are also a dozen "Near-Challengers" whose next increase (before the end of March) will mark their fifth year of higher dividends, qualifying them to join the Challengers group:

Company

Symbol

Ex-Div

PetMed Express Inc.

(NASDAQ:PETS)

2/8/12

Scripps Networks Inter.

(NYSE:SNI)

2/27/12

Fred's Inc.

(NASDAQ:FRED)

2/28/12

Reliance Steel & Alum.

(NYSE:RS)

2/29/12

MarketAxess Holdings

(NASDAQ:MKTX)

3/1/12

Duff & Phelps Corp.

(NYSE:DUF)

3/2/12

Sturm Ruger & Company

(NYSE:RGR)

3/7/12

Principal Financial Group

(NYSE:PFG)

3/8/12

BCE Inc.

(NYSE:BCE)

3/13/12

Cenovus Energy Inc.

(NYSE:CVE)

3/13/12

Mead Johnson Nutrion

(NYSE:MJN)

3/14/12

Western Union Company

(NYSE:WU)

3/14/12

Note that some of these companies are foreign ADRs (American Depository Receipts), REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts), or MLPs (Master Limited Partnerships), so you should consider the impact of different taxation before investing. In addition, about two dozen MLPs (among the Contenders and Challengers) tend to increase their distributions each quarter and should announce those in late January or early February. Not all of the above companies will meet the strict standards of every investor, but some may be appropriate for portfolio diversification. Potential investors should do more research before committing funds.

Every Picture Tells a Story

As a bonus, I'm inserting one of Chuck Carnevale's F.A.S.T. Graphs below, highlighting one of the companies listed above. When the stock's price line has moved into the green area, it indicates that the stock is undervalued in relation to its earnings. I'm attaching the chart below.

(click to enlarge)

Source: Dividend Challengers: 23 Increases Expected In The Next 11 Weeks