It's a fact: Dividend stocks tend to handily outperform nondividend-paying companies over the long run. This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise since dividend stocks tend to be profitable and have established business models. But as we all know, not all income stocks are created equal.
With this in mind, we asked three of our income stock-savvy Foolish investors to choose one top dividend stock with a yield of at least 2% that they believe you would be wise to consider buying. Making the grade were big pharma stocks GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) and Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), along with cruise line operator Carnival (NYSE:CCL).
This 5%+ yield can thrive in any market environment
Sean Williams (GlaxoSmithKline): Truth be told, sometimes the biggest names and most boring businesses make for the best dividend stocks. That's why I'd suggest income investors looking for a superior yield consider U.K.-based drug developer GlaxoSmithKline, which, like other drug developers, sells inelastic products that are in demand regardless of how well or poorly the economy is performing.
For years, GlaxoSmithKline's stock languished under the expected weight of a loss of exclusivity on Advair, its blockbuster asthma and COPD inhaler. That competition finally came to fruition last year with the launch of generic versions of the drug. It was believed, years ago, that GlaxoSmithKline's dividend might prove unsustainable, which would be a major blow to the company's valuation. After all, GlaxoSmithKline had (and still has) one of the most robust yields in the healthcare sector.
However, after a few years of playing the "what if" game, GlaxoSmithKline has come out smelling like a rose. Three factors are responsible for getting it back on the right track and putting income investors in a great position in the years to come.
First, GlaxoSmithKline completely reorganized its business via a three-part asset swap with Novartis (NYSE:NVS). It jettisoned its oncology division for around $16 billion, acquired Novartis' vaccine operations (sans influenza), and formed a consumer health products joint venture with Novartis. The deal put billions in cash in GlaxoSmithKline's pockets, it greatly expanded its vaccine offerings, which should help with pricing power, and it cut costs by combining with Novartis' consumer health products division.
Second,GlaxoSmithKline has benefited from strong growth in HIV therapies Tivicay and Triumeq. There is no cure for HIV or AIDS, meaning therapies designed to suppress the multiplication of the HIV virus in the body are likely to remain a staple for years to come. Through the first nine months of fiscal 2017, HIV sales growth was 47% on a constant currency basis.
Lastly, the company's next-generation COPD and asthma therapies have overcome initial post-launch hurdles. Both Breo Ellipta and Anoro Ellipta, which had struggled to gain insurer coverage and unseat standard-of-care therapies, are now growing exceptionally well. In fact, new drug sales growth is more than offsetting the sales lost from mature therapies.
Currently sporting a yield of more than 5%, GlaxoSmithKline should be on the radars of income seekers.
Cruising to profits
Brian Feroldi (Carnival Corporation): Have you ever been on a cruise? If so, the odds are that you were on a ship owned by Carnival, even if you didn't know it. Carnival controls nearly half of the global cruise market thanks to its ownership of brands like Princess, Holland America Line, Seaborn, Cunard, and more.
Cruising has grown in popularity over the last few decades because it is an affordable way for vacationers to see a number of destinations in a single trip. What's more, once on the ship, travelers don't have to worry about transportation, food, or entertainment. All of these services are provided for them for a modest up-front fee, which is a trade-off that many travelers find appealing.
Carnival has done a great job of translating that steady demand growth into profits over the last few years. The company's earnings per share have climbed in excess of 54% annually over the last five years, thereby taking shareholders on a highly profitable ride. While growth is bound to slow, Wall Street still expects Carnival to post a double-digit profit increase over the long term as its new ships hit the water.
That profit growth should excite income investors because Carnival has a history of using its excess cash to reward shareholders. The stock currently yields 2.5%, and the company regularly boosts its payout when times are good.
All in all, Carnival is the top dog in an industry that has very high barriers to entry and is destined for steady profit growth as the baby boomer generation continues to reach retirement age. That makes this a great stock for income-seeking investors to get to know.
A top-tier big pharma dividend stock
Keith Speights (Pfizer): I liked what Pfizer CFO Frank D'Amelio said at the big pharma company's third-quarter earnings call in November. When asked about the company's capital allocation priorities, he immediately named paying dividends at the top of the list. Those are the kinds of words that all dividend investors like to hear.
They should also like Pfizer's dividend itself. The yield currently stands at 3.68%. Pfizer is using around 57% of its free cash flow to fund the dividend, indicating flexibility to not only keep the dividends flowing but to also increase payouts in the future.
One thing investors might not like as much is Pfizer's recent stock performance. In 2017, the pharma stock gained close to 12%. That's not horrible, but in a year where the S&P 500 index soared more than 19%, it's not what you'd like to see. My view, though, is that Pfizer's future looks brighter than its past.
There are a couple of key reasons for my optimism. Pfizer claims several products that enjoy strong sales momentum, especially cancer drug Ibrance and blood thinner Eliquis. The company also has a deep pipeline, one that its head of research and development thinks could produce up to 15 potential blockbusters over the next five years.
Pfizer won't attract the buzz that many high-growth stocks do, but it should continue to steadily grow cash flow and return part of that cash flow to shareholders as dividends. For income investors, that's a lot to like.