Any way you look at it, Welltower Inc. (NYSE:WELL) is an outstanding dividend stock. The healthcare real estate investment trust (REIT) pays out a solid dividend that currently yields 4.49%. It has a great overall track record of increasing its dividend. And the stock itself has performed quite well also.
But as good as Welltower is, there are better dividend stocks. Here's why AT&T (NYSE:T), Enterprise Products Partners (NYSE:EPD), and Medical Properties Trust (NYSE:MPW) look like smarter picks right now.
The stock chart of telecommunications giant AT&T appears to be almost a mirror image of Welltower so far this year. AT&T's share price has dropped almost as much as Welltower's share price has climbed. However, AT&T easily tops Welltower when it comes to dividends.
For one thing, AT&T holds the elite status of Dividend Aristocrat. The company has increased its dividend for 32 consecutive years. AT&T's yield of 5.16% is well above Welltower's. And although the telecommunications company is using 95% of its earnings to fund the dividend, that's still better than Welltower, which is spending more on its dividend than it has earned.
What about AT&T's recent history of spotty revenue and earnings growth? It's no secret that the company operates in an intensely competitive industry. However, AT&T's pending acquisition of Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) gives it something that the company has lacked in filling out its lineup of products and services: content. Assuming the deal goes through, AT&T should be in a nice position to launch its own wireless cable service in the future.
Enterprise Products Partners
Enterprise Products Partners hasn't experienced as tough of a year in 2017 as AT&T has. However, the midstream energy company's year-to-date stock performance doesn't match up to Welltower's. I wouldn't worry too much about these short-term results, though.
Steady dividends from Enterprise have likely kept shareholders fairly happy. The yield currently stands at 6.31%. Enterprise has increased its dividend for 18 years in a row. The company is spending nearly 130% of earnings to pay out those dividends, but Enterprise's strong cash flow allows it to keep the dividends flowing anyway.
Over the long run, Enterprise Products Partners has a lot to offer investors beyond its dividend. Most of its business is fee-based, so the company isn't as vulnerable to fluctuations in oil and gas prices. Enterprise is also investing in the future, with $8.4 billion worth of major capital projects in the works.
Medical Properties Trust
Medical Properties Trust has several things in common with Welltower. Both are REITs. Both focus on healthcare (although Medical Properties Trust focuses primarily on hospitals while Welltower has more exposure to senior housing). Both also have really attractive dividends -- except Medical Properties Trust appears to have an advantage in that area.
Welltower does claim a better record of dividend increases, since Medical Properties Trust only has a three-year streak of consecutive annual dividend increases. However, Medical Properties Trust's dividend yield of 7.25% is simply outstanding. The company also has a payout ratio similar to that of Welltower.
There are a couple of other reasons investors might prefer Medical Properties Trust. First, it's significantly cheaper than Welltower, with shares trading at only 13 times expected earnings versus a forward earnings multiple of 40 for Welltower. Second, Medical Properties Trust appears poised for higher earnings growth over the next few years than Welltower is.