Editor's note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Intel as a Dividend Aristocrat. The company writeup has been removed from the article.
Dividend Aristocrats span a host of industries. Among the set of companies that have increased their dividends for at least 25 consecutive years, two high-yield opportunities worth consideration are manufacturing leader Emerson Electric (NYSE:EMR) and fast-food king McDonald's (NYSE:MCD).
Bet on the Internet of Things with this dividend stock
Neha Chamaria (Emerson Electric): While every Dividend Aristocrat is successful in its own right, Emerson Electric stands out for one compelling reason: It has among the best dividend track records in the group, having increased its dividends for 61 straight years now. The company's dividend growth is nothing to sneeze at either -- the payout has grown at an annual compounded clip of 10.4% since 1956.
Behind this incredible dividend-growth story is Emerson's transformation from a fan manufacturer to one of the world's leading automation solutions providers and an HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) powerhouse. Today, the company is present in 155 locations across the globe, gets around half its sales from markets outside the U.S., and is generating double-digit returns on invested capital and equity.
With automation changing business dynamics across industries, Emerson is one of the best ways to play trends like the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The opportunities are huge, and Emerson's rich experience in the field, backed by strong financials and prudent management, positions the company well to exploit them.
As the company grows, so should shareholder returns. Emerson is targeting 5%-8% growth in sales and a sales-to-free-cash-flow conversion of 11%-14% through 2021. Couple that with management's FCF payout target range of 40%-50% and you know you can expect your dividend checks to not just arrive regularly but also get fatter with time. With a 3.2% dividend yield to boot, Emerson Electric is one of the best Dividend Aristocrats to consider.
This Aristocrat is golden
Rich Duprey (McDonald's): Even when McDonald's business was doing horribly, its stock was outperforming the market. Now that it's focused once more on its core customer, the burger joint should maintain its torrid pace.
Founded in 1949, McDonald's paid its first dividend in 1976 and has raised the quarterly payout every year since, typically by substantial amounts. In the past four years, as the company struggled to regain its footing, however, the dividend-increase rate dropped to the single digits. Last year McDonald's increased the payout by 5.6%.
Yet the dividend is not in any danger of being suspended or even cut, as the stock's payout ratio is a healthy 58%. And now as sales are beginning to grow once more, it's not unreasonable to assume the dividend hikes will resume their prior trajectory. Just don't expect that to happen right away.
Importantly, McDonald's still has to show it can attract more customers to its stores. As is the case for much of the rest of the restaurant industry, growing customer traffic has been a difficult task for the burger shop. Though the metric is up over the first six months of 2017, there's no guarantee that it will stay that way. It was up last year at this point and still ended negative for the year -- that was the fourth consecutive year McDonald's lost customers.
But as noted, McDonald's is concentrating on its core customer again and focusing on the value end of its menu, which, like the all-day-breakfast campaign that stopped sliding sales in their tracks, ought to get comparable-store sales heading in the right direction again.