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It's easy to fall into the party line that stocks come in two types: value and growth. And it's easy to assume that if a company has been around awhile, that it's more or less done.
But you'd be wrong.
I'd introduce you to Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG ) , but chances are, you've already met them. They're the proprietors of such leading brands as Gillette, Pampers, Tide, Charmin, Iams, and NyQuil.
Dividends all the way down
We know, thanks to Jeremy Siegel, that solid-dividend payers can, over the long haul, be some of the world's most lucrative companies. That's because of three things.
First, reinvested dividends mean you're buying in to the company on a regular basis and at different price points. Second, holding those investments over a long period of time gets the power of compounding working for you.
Third, a company that's been paying -- and continues to pay -- a solid dividend is likely to stick around. It may not give you a 10-bagger in two years, but neither is it likely to drop your investment to zero.
P&G has been paying dividends for 120 consecutive years, and it has increased dividends for 54 consecutive years. That's a pretty good track record.
P&G paid approximately $5.5 billion to shareholders as dividends in fiscal 2010 and bought back an additional $6 billion in shares.
Growth without paying for it
Solid dividend payers are also often much more reasonably priced than their high-growth counterparts, mostly because they don't have stratospheric growth already priced in.
But that doesn't mean they don't have room to grow. In fact, they have to grow just to keep up with themselves. The real question is: Can they grow beyond that?
The answer for P&G appears to be yes.
In fiscal 2010, the company succeeded in building market share in 14 of its top 17 countries, and it reached an additional 200 million consumers. Average per-person spending on P&G products increased in 70% of those top countries, and the percentage of global households using at least one P&G product increased to 61% from 59%.
But there's still a lot of room to continue expanding. The company's goal is to reach 5 billion consumers by 2015 -- from 4.2 billion now -- and it's currently competing in less than 50% of potential "country/category" combinations in its top 50 markets.
And analysts are calling for between 7% and 11% long-term growth -- not only respectable but well above the general growth rates of most nations' GDPs.
Everything else you get
But P&G is more than just a dividend and a growth strategy. It's got a disciplined program of innovation that consistently produces top-selling and award-winning products. It has unparalleled brand management and has fostered a strong culture of talent and development.
While its sheer size likely limits the velocity of growth, it also means P&G has strong bargaining power with suppliers and customers and can use that size to keep costs down.
The Foolish bottom line
While P&G isn't particularly cheap at a trailing P/E of 15, it's also not ridiculously expensive, especially within its industry. If you like the price, then this is a great company to add to the core of your portfolio.
But it's not the only growing dividend payer out there. In fact, competitors Clorox (NYSE: CLX ) and Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE: CL ) are paying out 3.2% and 2.7%, respectively, and analysts expect them to annually grow 10% and 9%, respectively, over the next five years.
The bottom line? Just because a company is big, old, and pays a dividend doesn't mean there's no more juice in the tank. In fact, while they likely won't blow your portfolio out of the water, they might be the best bets for reasonably safe growth.