Looking for safe dividend stocks in tech? They aren't easy to find these days. The market sits at all-time highs, and many well-known tech giants, such as IBM (NYSE:IBM) and Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO), are struggling to fend off competition. Moreover, the tech sector, in general, is prone to rapid change and disruption.
Microsoft increased its dividend by 7.6% from $1.56 to $1.64 per share, for a forward yield of 2.25%, while Texas Instruments upped the ante, hiking its dividend a whopping 24% from $1.88 to $2.48, for a forward yield of 2.8%. Here's what's behind all that cash-money and why these two companies are strong contenders for any dividend growth investor's portfolio.
You have likely used Microsoft's core franchise products at some point in your life: Microsoft's Windows operating system is the backbone of virtually every PC that isn't made by Apple, and the company's Office Suite (Powerpoint, Word, Excel, Outlook, and others) is the de facto platform for professional organizations and individuals worldwide. Since Office is a common software platform that many people use, it is very hard to dislodge. That "stickiness" is why Microsoft is so dominant today.
Texas Instruments, on the other hand, is an extremely diversified semiconductor company, with tens of thousands of different products across analog and embedded processing chips. Moreover, the company is globally diversified, with over 100,000 different customers, which means the company is not beholden to a particular customer, technology, or end market. The safety of each company's competitive position makes them prime candidates for investors seeking safe yields.
Not only do each of these companies have strong competitive positions, but both are putting up impressive growth metrics in recent quarters. This is especially impressive since each company is already so large.
Last quarter, Microsoft grew its revenue 10% and operating earnings 16% -- a terrific result for a $560 billion company. Even better, Microsoft's bookings figure came it at an "off the chart" 30% growth. Bookings equals the change in revenue plus the change in deferred revenue, meaning that even more customers paid upfront for long-dated subscriptions that will be recognized in future quarters.
The bookings change reflects Microsoft's successful transition to cloud and subscription-based software models, which was the focus of new CEO Satya Nadella, who formerly headed the company's cloud division. The heavy cloud investments the company made since he took over in 2014 are reaping benefits now, and should for a long time to come.
Texas Instruments, on the other hand, is also reaping the benefits of research and development investments, specifically in the industrial and automotive sectors, which combined grew to 51% of company revenues. That led to a robust 13% year-over-year revenue growth and a whopping 30.8% operating income growth last quarter.
Semiconductor content is rapidly increasing in automotive vehicles, with connected cars, advanced safety features, and self-driving capabilities taking off. Moreover, factory automation is driving increased demand for industrial chips. These two trends should continue for years, and Texas Instruments is in pole position to benefit.
On top of the strong current results, I have high confidence in these two companies for the long-term. Microsoft's Azure cloud grew an astonishing 97% last quarter, as the infrastructure platform seems to be the go-to alternative to Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) AWS. As I've written before, cloud computing infrastructure is a high-growth oligopoly. Given that many companies, especially in retail, don't want to use Amazon for their cloud service, Microsoft should stand to benefit for a long time to come in this high-growth segment.
Meanwhile, Texas Instruments continues to reward shareholders with its very detailed capital allocation policy. The company's 300-millimeter manufacturing facilities also gives Texas Instruments a stunning 40% cost advantage in their cost per chip and an 8% benefit in gross margins. That cost advantage and allocation discipline should also benefit the chipmaker's shareholders for many years.
Finally, both companies trade at reasonable valuations of around 20 times forward earnings. Given the strengths of each company's competitive advantages, current growth rates, and future prospects, dividend investors looking toward tech should snap up shares of both.