Look at These Dow-Approved Dividend Titans

Around the world, investors turn to the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) to find good investing ideas. Throughout the stock market's history, the 30 companies chosen to be part of the Dow have represented the cream of the crop among U.S. stocks, with nearly all of them extended their reach not just in the domestic economy but around the globe as well. Among those 30 stocks are some proven dividend leaders that have rewarded their shareholders with generous payouts for decades.

One trend that has picked up steam, however, is for investors to look abroad for higher dividend yields. Some countries offer particularly attractive dividends even on their highest-quality stocks right now. But as you'd expect from all the geopolitical and global macroeconomic uncertainties right now, some of those high yields come with plenty of risk.

To decide whether the potential reward is worth the risk, let's turn to a group of stocks that Dow Jones Indexes -- the group that decides which stocks go into the Dow -- calls the Dow Jones Global Titans 50 to see what we can find in the dividend department. Later in this article, I'll share the names of this index's top dividend payers. But first, let me introduce you to this index and tell you more about what makes it stand out from the Dow.

Size matters
Yesterday, I wrote about the Global Dow and its international reach. Yet while the Dow Global Titans 50 has certain aspects in common with the Global Dow, it has a somewhat narrower focus: It aims to include the world's largest multinational companies. The Dow Global Titans 50's selection process focuses on market cap, revenue, and net income, ranking companies and applying a much more mechanical methodology than the selection process for the Dow and the Global Dow.

Every year, the index gets a review, with companies getting new rankings. Based on those rankings, stocks can get replaced. Moreover, if a company falls too far, it can get replaced even between the annual reviews.

Once the stocks are chosen, they're weighted by market cap. By doing so, the index avoids controversies about price-weighted indexes that the Dow has to face.

Not very foreign
On balance, the Dow Global Titans 50 index isn't very international. More than two-thirds of the value of the index is allocated to U.S. companies, with no other single country even reaching the 10% mark. Among the index's 50 current stocks, 18 are members of the Dow Jones Industrials, and several others are among stocks that often get mentioned as companies that arguably deserve to be in the Dow.

But one interesting thing about the Dow Global Titans 50 is that when you rank components by dividend yield, the U.S. stocks mostly fall toward the bottom of the list. By contrast, consider some of these international leaders within the index:

  • Spain's Telefonica (NYSE: TEF  ) has a huge dividend yield on a trailing basis, although the company has already warned that it will cut its payout this year and next. The current trailing dividend yield of 16.8% assumes that the company's future dividend will be paid in cash -- something that seems unlikely, as its May distribution included a partial "scrip dividend." But even if the company cuts its cash outlay in half, an effective yield of 8% would still be impressive. Moreover, the company still has impressive performance in Latin America, which is isolated from Europe's problems.
  • Similarly, Banco Santander (NYSE: SAN  ) boasted a 17% yield recently, but many investors think a dividend cut for the Spanish bank is inevitable. That's far from a sure thing, though, because like Telefonica, Santander has Latin American operations that have produced nice profits.
  • Oil companies Total (NYSE: TOT  ) and Eni (NYSE: E  ) sell the same crude and other energy products that companies in the U.S. and around the world do, but their dividend yields are much higher than those of their American counterparts. With yields of 6% for Total and more than 5% for Eni, the current share values price in some expectation of home-government action that would somehow put those companies at a competitive disadvantage to their global competitors. That seems unlikely.

What's your right move?
Obviously, these stocks aren't risk-free by any means, with Telefonica and Santander bearing particularly big risks. But from a dividend perspective, the risks may be worth it for income-hungry investors who are optimistic about their prospects.

On the other hand, if you'd rather stick with the original Dow for your dividend stocks, you can still find some promising choices. Our brand-new special report, "The 3 Dow Stocks Dividend Investors Need," reveals three Dow stocks that give you great prospects for both current yield and future pay increases. So why wait? Accept this invitation to get your copy right now.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter, @DanCaplinger. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Total. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On June 18, 2012, at 8:03 AM, NuitStGeorge wrote:

    Two relevent points not mentioned, unless I read sloppily: France keeps as much as 35.6 percent of the dividend and Spain keeps as much as 19% of dividend, thus decreasing the yield accordingly.

    At least that's what they kept in 2011

  • Report this Comment On June 18, 2012, at 11:57 AM, whyaduck1128 wrote:

    True, but if you have a US tax liability, you can get some or all of the foreign withholding back via the Foreign Tax Credit. Also, IIRC, Spain withholds the 19% only if you take the cash, not if you reinvest.

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