It seems an understatement to say it's difficult for any company to rival the financial legacy that PepsiCo (PEP 0.61%) has built. With more than 22 brands each generating over $1 billion in annual sales, including not only its namesake drinks but also brands like Gatorade, Lays, Quaker, and Tropicana, Pepsi has been able to increase its dividend for each of the past 45 years.
But that doesn't mean there aren't other compelling dividend stocks on the market.
So we asked three top Motley Fool investors to each pick a dividend stock with an even higher yield than PepsiCo. Here's why they chose Retail Opportunity Investments (ROIC -0.33%), Pfizer (PFE), and BP (BP 3.00%).
A different way to play retail
Steve Symington (Retail Opportunity Investments): Given the seemingly unstoppable rise of e-commerce, it might seem odd to recommend a real estate investment trust (REIT) whose future hinges on the success of retail. But Retail Opportunity Investments' strategy -- as well as a healthy dividend with an annual yield of 4% as of this writing -- leaves it operating from an enviable position of strength.
More specifically, Retail Opportunity Investments focuses on buying and revitalizing necessity-based retail properties -- which typically means they're anchored by large grocery chains -- in mid- to high-income areas on the West Coast. Leading the implementation of this strategy is industry veteran and CEO Stuart Tanz, who previously took Pan Pacific Retail from its $146 million IPO in 1997 to a $4.1 billion acquisition by Kimco Realty in 2006.
For perspective, at the end of last quarter, the company boasted a portfolio of 87 shopping centers encompassing roughly 10 million square feet. It usually adds several new centers to that portfolio each quarter -- it acquired $314 million of shopping centers through the first three quarters of the year -- and has managed to post three straight years of portfolio lease rates at above 97%.
Meanwhile, Retail Opportunity Investments currently trades at a reasonable 16.5 times this year's expected funds from operations -- a fair price for a high-quality business whose payout should increase along with the size of its real estate portfolio.
A laggard no more
George Budwell (Pfizer): Thanks to the loss of exclusivity for top-selling drugs like Lipitor and Celebrex, Pfizer's top line has muddled along for the past few years, causing its shares to underperform the red-hot biopharmaceutical space during this period. However, this titan of the pharma industry is starting to wake from its slumber, and that's great news for dividend and growth investors alike.
By taking a superaggressive approach to mergers and acquisitions in the recent past and investing heavily in its own internal pipeline, Pfizer has built a deep and robust clinical portfolio that's set to return the company to healthy levels of growth in the coming decade. For instance, it's expected to have an outsized footprint in the emerging immuno-oncology space, as well as in cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, immunology, orphan indications, and, of course, vaccines against infectious diseases.
The drugmaker's broad approach to drug discovery and development should also provide a layer of insulation from the inevitable clinical and regulatory setbacks. Put simply, Pfizer isn't dependent on a single product or label expansion to create value for shareholders -- like many of its big pharma peers.
Now, the real take-home point is that Pfizer's free cash flows -- the lifeblood of its dividend program -- should continue to edge higher in the years ahead. And that promising outlook bodes well for additional increases to its payout over time. So, with a forward-looking yield of 3.69% that tops even that of the Dividend Aristocrat PepsiCo, Pfizer is worth a look by investors on the hunt for top income stocks in 2018 and beyond.
A major leap forward
John Bromels (BP): If you like PepsiCo's dividend yield of about 2.7%, you should love a company that's yielding more than twice as much. One such company is oil major BP.
BP currently has the highest yield of any integrated oil company at 5.6%. That yield has dropped somewhat over the past year, but only because the company's share price has risen by 12.6%, rivaling PepsiCo's price appreciation over the same period. And as crude oil prices continue to rise, supplemented by strong global demand for petroleum, BP's share price should continue its upward trend.
Making the stock even more attractive for long-term investors are BP's plans to restart its share buyback program, making it the first of the oil majors to do so. The company is seeing big production gains from some major projects it began in 2017, including big gas projects in Egypt and offshore Trinidad, which -- coupled with rising oil prices -- should be very good for BP's bottom line. All in all, this looks like a solid pick for income-focused investors.
The bottom line
Of course, we can't guarantee that these three stocks will outpace the returns of PepsiCo or the broader market. But whether we're talking about Retail Opportunity Investments' unique real estate strategy, Pfizer's impressive product portfolio and pipeline, or BP's industry leadership and favorable trends, we like their chances of doing just that.