One of the many benefits of owning stocks is the chance to receive small chunks of a company's profit in the form of regular checks. We're talking about dividends, of course, and a great many companies pay them every quarter. Dividend policies are not set in stone, though, so there's no guarantee that a particular company will keep shoveling them into shareholders' hands.
But there are a raft of companies on the stock exchanges that have managed to hand out regular dividends for at least a decade running -- in some cases, for many decades -- and look set to maintain that habit. Some of these businesses are household names.
Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) is about much more than its namesake sugary drink. In fact, the company produces 21 brands with over $1 billion in annual worldwide sales. With that kind of volume, Coca-Cola can't help but make loads of money -- its net profit margin nearly always lands well in double-digit percentage territory, while it rakes in billions of dollars in cash flow every year. Although it's struggled a bit lately due to a shift in consumer preferences toward healthier products, the company is still immensely profitable.
Coca-Cola is one of the all-time dividend champions, having raised its payout at least once every year for 55 years in a row.
Elsewhere in big food and beverage, classic fast-food purveyor McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) regularly serves up a quarterly dividend in addition to its Big Macs and shakes. Similar to Coca-Cola, the company struggled in the wake of the healthier-eating trend earlier this decade. However, McDonald's seems to have rediscovered its mojo, delivering strong sales and earnings growth with popular new offerings -- all-day breakfast, for example, and sensible efficiency measures like kiosk ordering.
McDonald's is famous for utilizing the franchise model, and most of the company's restaurants are managed in this way. This keeps profit margins relatively high for the company and provides plenty of cash for the shareholder payout, which was recently extended to 41 consecutive years with a 7% increase.
Procter & Gamble
Unlike Coke and McDonald's, Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) isn't necessarily a household name among American consumers. But it's a big part of their lives, as the consumer-goods giant controls a great many brands that we find throughout the house. This product lineup includes, but is nowhere near limited to, Bounty paper towels, Crest toothpaste, Gillette razors and accessories, and Pampers diapers. In recent years, Procter & Gamble has slimmed this selection a bit, jettisoning a host of underperforming brands. This hasn't yet resulted in meaningful bottom-line improvement, and cash flow has narrowed.
Regardless, the company still has a significant presence in stores and possesses more than enough money to pay its shareholders. It's got one of the longest dividend-raise streaks on the market, having boosted its payout 61 years in a row.
A vibrant housing market is supporting the business of home-improvement stores, few moreso than Lowe's (NYSE:LOW). In fiscal 2016, the company booked $65 billion in sales, for growth of over 10% year over year. More impressively, net income rose 21%, to hit nearly $3.1 billion. Americans are getting out their hammers and building things, a trend that very much favors a big home-improvement chain like Lowe's.
Lowe's has paid a dividend in every single quarter since it listed on the stock exchange in 1961. Its dividend-raise habit stretches back nearly as far -- 54 years, to be exact.
Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) likes to boast that it passes its savings onto its customers. Another thing the company is fond of handing over is a quarterly dividend to shareholders: These days, it doles out $0.51 per share. The company has done fairly well, considering that online shopping is taking a toll on traditional retailers like itself. In recent years, neither revenue nor net profit has eroded too badly, and Wal-Mart still has plenty of cash on hand for the payout. In fiscal 2017, for example, its total spend on the dividend was less than 50% of its earnings.
With a dividend-raise streak that's now 44 years long, Wal-Mart is one of the most durable raisers in the retail industry.
Elsewhere in big retail, Target (NYSE:TGT) also is holding its own against the onslaught of e-tailers. What helps is that the company makes a great effort to lure customers into its stores. A recent initiative, known as Drive Up, is currently being tested in Minnesota. Drive Up would allow Target shoppers to make their purchase online and pick up the goods at a designated area at the store. The service, which is currently being tested, is appealing for people within range of a store who don't want to wait a day, or several, for an e-tailer to ship them their purchases.
Target has one of the highest-yielding dividends in the retail sector, at 4.4%. Like Wal-Mart, the company has a four-decade-plus stretch of annual dividend increases.
Our dividend-paying retailer tour stops at the entrance of Costco Wholesale (NASDAQ:COST), the popular warehouse club. The company seems to be barely struggling at all against e-tailing, perhaps because customers can best discover deals and funky products by actually visiting the store. In its most recently reported fiscal year, Costco booked almost $130 billion in sales -- a pleasant 9% improvement over the previous year -- while net profit rose by 11%. There are few signs of the dreaded retail apocalypse at this retailer.
In April, Costco declared an 11% raise in its regular quarterly dividend, to $0.50 per share. It has hiked its payout every year since 2005.
Tootsie Roll Industries
Nearly every American is familiar with Tootsie Roll candy, but many are unaware that the company behind it -- Tootsie Roll Industries (NYSE:TR) -- owns a host of confectionery brands. Among these are DOTS, Junior Mints, and Charleston Chew. This concentration on sugary goods doesn't fit into the healthy eating/drinking trend (see slide No. 1), and Tootsie Roll Industries has seen revenue declines because of it. Still, the company's wares are common sights on supermarket and convenience-store shelves -- one reason it's been consistently profitable.
For over half a century, Tootsie Roll has been raising its dividend as reliably as it's produced those tasty pellets of chewy chocolate. At present, that quarterly payout amounts to $0.09 per share.
A vibrant U.S. housing market is thickening the financials of paint and coatings maker Sherwin-Williams (NYSE:SHW), which has been doing its thing since 1866. Not long ago, the company decided to bulk up through the splashy, $11 billion buyout of fellow paint manufacturer Valspar, a deal that closed earlier this year. This bolt-on acquisition helped Sherwin-Williams grow its revenue an impressive 37% on a year-over-year basis in its Q3. Meanwhile, cost savings from operational overlap should help the company improve its already healthy profitability.
Sherwin-Williams is a longtime dividend payer and raiser. It began lifting its payout way back in 1979, and hasn't stopped yet.
Perhaps best known for its duck mascot and quirky TV ads, Aflac (NYSE:AFL) is a leading provider of supplemental health insurance. This is a niche, yet profitable, segment, as evidenced by the company's habit of landing consistently in the black. Aflac operates in two highly developed markets, the U.S. and Japan, and currency movements in the latter can affect results at times -- such as the company's Q3, in which it saw a slight dip in revenue. For the most part, though, Aflac operates a very stable and steady business.
This is reflected in the company's quarterly dividend, which has been on the rise for over 30 years straight. On an annual basis, Aflac currently pays $1.80, which yields 2.1%.
The largest oil producer in the U.S., mighty ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) has managed to keep itself well in the black on the bottom line lately, despite a serious drop in oil prices earlier this decade. ExxonMobil has done a good job maintaining profitability: In its latest reported quarter, it took advantage of recent improvements in prices and expanded its bottom line by almost 50%, to just under $4 billion, on $66.2 billion in revenue. Meanwhile, the company's cash flow remains more than sufficient to pay its steadily increasing dividend.
Said payout has been flowing through the pipes of ExxonMobil and its predecessor companies for over a century. More recently, the company has increased it annually for 35 years running.
This dividend cleverly hides in your pantry or spice rack. If any company is most readily identified with spices and food seasonings, it's longtime purveyor McCormick (NYSE:MKC), which has a commanding presence on supermarket shelves. Over the years, the company has managed to build itself into a powerhouse, with over $4.4 billion in annual sales, and its organic improvements have been complimented by acquisitions. Its revenue growth tends to outpace the rise in its costs, making it a steady and reliably profitable operator.
McCormick just declared a raise in its quarterly dividend -- by 11%, to $0.52 per share -- marking the 32nd year in a row it has increased its payout.
Take out your trash and collect a dividend. That's the interesting dynamic at work if you're a customer and shareholder of top U.S. rubbish-hauler Waste Management (NYSE:WM), which makes a lot of coin disposing of unwanted material. The company has been in business in its present form since 1968 and has grown to the point where it books nearly $14 billion in annual revenue. It's almost always profitable on an annual basis, and throws off more-than-enough cash to fund its dividend.
Said payout has been headed north for over a decade: Waste Management has increased it every year since 2004.
Generally speaking, tech companies aren't generous dividend payers -- when they pay them at all, that is. The sector requires a great deal of investment in order to bring products to market, which usually doesn't leave much for shareholder payouts. A notable exception is Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), a famously profitable and cash-rich company that started to hand out a quarterly dividend in 2004 and has never looked back. It's lifted that distribution every year since then, boosting it from the initial $0.08 per share to today's $0.39.
Although some critics have faulted Microsoft for not being more generous with the payout, at 2%, it actually yields slightly over the average of dividend-paying stocks on the S&P 500.
The largest American cellphone-services provider by subscriber count, Verizon (NYSE:VZ) is also one of the sector's most reliable dividend payers. Although the company sets aside plenty of capital for investments into its network and infrastructure, it also leaves enough room for a generous shareholder payout. There's enough money for a great many purposes, as Verizon's trailing 12-month net profit amounted to nearly $16 billion, almost twice what the carrier paid out in dividends.
Although it doesn't have the longest annual raise streak in its segment -- that honor goes to uber-rival AT&T -- Verizon has had a good run with its increases. In June it declared a raise for the 11th year in a row.
Teresa Kersten is an employee of LinkedIn and is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. Eric Volkman has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Verizon Communications. The Motley Fool recommends Aflac, Costco Wholesale, Lowe's, McCormick, and Sherwin-Williams. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.