Dividend Aristocrats Can Still Provide High Income

Includes: JNJ, LEG, LLY, PBI, RPM
by: Avi Morris

During these times with low interest rates, it's difficult to find decent yields for investment. Dividend Aristocrats (companies with a minimum of 25 consecutive years of higher annual dividends) are an excellent place to look. But yields have fallen, making it difficult to find yields over 4%. Below are 5 Dividend Aristocrats for consideration.

(1) Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) -- LLY is one of the largest, global pharmaceutical companies. Its yield has been high (above 5%) for months because it faces patent expiration on key drugs. So stockholders have to wait for FDA approval which creates uncertainty. Just today (April 20), the FDA called for a new study on the experimental diabetes drug Bydureon (delaying its approval) which LLY developed with another company! Because of uncertainty, LLY has been very cautious about increasing its dividend. This week the 49¢ dividend was declared for Q4 (providing a 5.4% yield), the same paid for 8 consecutive quarters. Thus the annual dividend for 2010 (with good earnings coverage) of $1.96 will equal last year's and LLY will be removed from the group when S&P makes its annual review in December. But LLY has paid an annual dividend since 1885, has a strong balance sheet, substantial foreign sales and more drugs in the pipeline.

(2) Pitney Bowes (NYSE:PBI) -- PBI has one of the highest yields, 6.6%, of any Dividend Aristocrat. The company is known for providing mail services to companies but the future of mail related services is considered cloudy by many. Earnings have been flattish in the $2+ area during this decade. PBI is facing challenges by expanding international business, growing direct mail services (still important in marketing products) and expanding computer/e-mail services. The $1.46 dividend is well covered and the high yield will be of interest for bargain hunters.

(3) Leggett Platt (NYSE:LEG) -- LEG has been making products for manufacturing companies since 1883. Its products include: components for bedding and residential furniture, carpet underlay components for office furniture and automotive seat support. LEG has increased foreign sales from 5% in 1995 to 25% in 2009 which helped the company get through the recession. The recovery is going well and increased earnings easily cover the dividend. The annual dividend was raised 4¢ to $1.08 this year (its 39th consecutive annual increase) providing a yield of 4.7%.

(4) RPM (NYSE:RPM) --- RPM is a coatings company which manufactures and markets specialty chemical products worldwide. It just increased the annual dividend 2 pennies to 84¢, its 37th annual increase, for a yield of 4.1%. Again, RPM is rebounding from the severe US recession aided by almost 30% of sales coming from outside the US. EPS is expected to be $1.61 in FY2011 (ending next August). After Q1, ending August 2010, the company continued its fiscal 2011 guidance that it anticipates sales growth of 4-5% to approximately $3.25 billion and growth of EPS to $1.35-1.40, up from a pro-forma $1.26, in FY2010.

(5) Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) -- JNJ is one of the world's leading healthcare companies and also has the coveted AAA credit rating. Its yield is a little lower at 3.4% because of its extremely high credit rating. This week JNJ reported mediocre Q3 earnings. Its nonprescription medicines plunged 40% as numerous product recalls (such as Tylenol) hurt sales and consumer trust. JNJ estimated it will lose $600 million in sales of consumer products this year. The lingering global recession and some initial price cuts from the health care overhaul contributed to anemic earnings. However, management raised full year EPS guidance 5¢ to $4.70-4.80 for 2010.

I like yield stocks and am attracted to those with higher yields. The after tax yields of stocks will be more attractive if the qualified dividend advantage is preserved next year. These stocks are presented for long term investors who are looking for a significant portion of future gains to come from dividends. LLY, especially, is going to be on defense suggesting lower stock prices and higher yields ahead but will be of interest to patient investors waiting for more attractive opportunities. JNJ is included for those interested in "risk averse" investments.

Disclosure: Long LLY, PBI