Chevron (NYSE:CVX) is part of a select group. It's one of only 57 Dividend Aristocrats, stocks in the S&P 500 that have increased their dividend for at least 25 straight years. The oil giant recently solidified its standing among the dividend royalty by increasing its payout for 2019, which marks the 32nd consecutive year the company has given its investors a raise.
That's an impressive streak, especially considering that the company operates in the notoriously volatile oil industry. However, it's one Chevron doesn't anticipate ending soon, given that its priority is to continue growing its dividend. Because of that, this oil stock is one that income-seeking investors will at least want to have on their radar.
Drilling down into Chevron's latest dividend increase
Chevron's board of directors recently authorized the payment of its next quarterly dividend, setting the payout at $1.19 per share. That level represents a 6.2% increase from its last one. Given where the stock currently trades, the dividend yield is up to 4.2%, which is more than double that of the average stock in the S&P 500.
Chevron can afford to give its investors a raise because it's generating a gusher of cash flow at current oil prices. During the third quarter, for example, the company produced more than $6 billion in free cash after financing new oil projects, which covered its $2.1 billion dividend outlay with room to spare. The company used some of the excess money to pay down debt and buy back stock, with the rest piling up on its balance sheet, boosting its cash position to $9.7 billion. While oil prices have come down sharply since then, Chevron can still produce enough free cash to fund its dividend and current capital plans on $50 oil and has plenty of cushion if oil goes lower, given its cash position.
Why the oil giant appears poised to continue rewarding income investors
Unlike most of its oil-producing peers, Chevron's focus isn't on increasing its production. Instead, the company's No. 1 priority is to maintain and grow the dividend, followed by funding its capital program, strengthening its balance sheet, and returning surplus cash to investors via its share-repurchase plan.
Chevron's investment strategy aligns with that focus on the dividend. While the company did boost its capital budget to $20 billion for 2019, up from $18.3 billion last year, more than two-thirds of those investments will generate cash flow within two years. That focus on making investments that quickly produce cash "underpins our strong dividend and share repurchase program," according to CEO Michael Wirth. In the company's view, its strategy can grow cash flow by a 30% compound annual growth rate through 2020 from 2017's level -- assuming Brent crude (the global benchmark price) averages $60 a barrel, which is below the current level. This outlook implies that Chevron's cash flow could expand at an even faster pace if oil prices head higher, which would enable the company to repurchase more shares and possibly grow its dividend at a higher rate.
An oil stock for income seekers
Chevron has treated its investors like royalty over the years by consistently giving them raises. It has tallied an impressive streak that doesn't appear as if it will end anytime soon. Not only does the oil giant generate gobs of free cash flow -- with more on the way -- but it has a cash-rich balance sheet. Because of those and other factors, the company should have no problem achieving its top priority: to continue increasing its dividend in the years to come. That's why it's such an intriguing stock for dividend-focused investors to consider owning.
Check out the latest Chevron earnings call transcript.