Dividend aristocrats are companies that have paid dividends consistently for more than 25 years. They have been able to do so because of solid earnings growth and sufficient cash holdings. In this low-yield environment, stocks of these dividend payers have served well as investment vehicles in which to park money. Some of them are also safe havens to shield investments during the times of extended market uncertainty. As the markets enter turbulent times due to a protracted political and financial volatility in Europe, the following dividend aristocrats look poised to attract attention of prudent income investors.
Consolidated Edison (NYSE:ED) is one of the largest utility companies in the United States. It has market capitalization of $17.6 billion and $31.7 billion in assets. The company reported $769 million in cash and near cash items in the first quarter of 2012, almost 50% more than in the same quarter a year earlier. ConEd has an attractive dividend of $2.42 a share, with a dividend yield of 4.10%. Its yield is on par with the industry's and twice as large as that on the S&P500, with much lower volatility, as measured by the stock's beta. The company has a dividend payout ratio of 67%. It is currently trading at $60.3 a share, with a P/E on trailing earnings of 17.4 and a forward P/E of 15.6, somewhat higher than the S&P500 ratios of 16 and 13.3, respectively. Jim Simons' Renaissance Technologies had more than $55 million invested in ED at the end of last year (see billionaire Jim Simons' top picks).
The Clorox Company (NYSE:CLX) is an $8.9 billion manufacturer of food and chemical products. As of March 31, 2012, the company had $4.4 billion in assets, out of which $303 million was in cash and near cash items. Its current cash holdings are almost double those reported a year earlier. The Clorox Company pays $2.40 a share in annual dividends. At current share prices, this dividend translates into a yield of 3.50%, some 120 basis points more than on the industry's average yield and 150 basis points above the yield on the S&P500, with much lower volatility than the broader market. The company has a dividend payout ratio of 55%. It is trading at $68.5, with a present P/E of 17 and a forward P/E of 16. Among fund managers, the stock is popular with Donald Yacktman, John Hussman, and Ken Fisher. In the first quarter of 2012, these fund managers added positions in the company at an average price of $63.2 a share.
Sysco Corporation (NYSE:SYY) is a $16.3 billion distributor of food products to the food service industry. As of March 31, 2012, the company reported $11.9 billion in assets, out of which $350 million was in cash and near-cash items. This cash total was slightly below the levels reported in the same quarter the year earlier. The company pays an annual dividend of $1.08 a share, which translates into a dividend yield of 3.90%, which is 80 basis points more than the industry's average yield and almost double the yield on the S&P500, with lower volatility than the market's (as measured by the stock's beta). Sysco has a dividend payout ratio of 53%. Its stock is trading at $28.87 a share, with a P/E of 14.3 and a forward P/E of 13.9, somewhat attractive relative to the S&P500 P/E ratios. Among fund managers, the stock is popular with Donald Yacktman and Tweedy Browne, both of whom added the stock to their portfolio in the first quarter at an average price of $27.88 a share.
Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) is a $176.7 billion multinational corporation that manufactures consumer goods. As of March 31, 2012, the company had $134.6 billion in assets, out of which almost $4 billion in cash. The company's cash at hand in the first quarter of 2012 was nearly 36% higher than in the same quarter of last year. Procter & Gamble pays and annual dividend of $2.25 a share, which equals to a dividend yield of 3.50%, some 20 basis points above the yield on the industry and a percentage and half more than the yield on the S&P500, with lower volatility, as measured by the stock's beta. The company has a dividend ratio of 50%. Its stock is trading at $64.14, with a P/E of 19.7 and a forward P/E of 15.3, above the ratios on the S&P500. As regards fund ownership, Procter & Gamble was popular with Donald Yacktman and John Hussman, who acquired the stock in the first quarter at an average cost basis of $61.86 a share.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.