To paraphrase Cousin Eddie in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, dividend stocks are the gifts that keep on giving. It's great to have a stock that pays you to own it. Even better is a dividend stock that gives investors nice raises on a regular basis by increasing the dividend payout.
But what if you could find attractive dividend stocks with dividends that could double within the next few years? The good news is that you can. Here's why Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), Oracle (NYSE:ORCL), and UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) especially stand out as likely candidates.
1. Bank of America
Bank of America's dividend yield currently stands at a little over 2%. But over the last five years, the financial services company's dividend hasn't just doubled; it has tripled. During that period, Bank of America's share price has nearly doubled.
Bank of America shouldn't have any problem continuing to boost its dividend, potentially even doubling it over the next few years. The company's dividend payout ratio is a low 21.35%, indicating plenty of financial flexibility to increase dividend payouts.
Shareholders should be rewarded in another important way, too. Bank of America authorized a massive $30.9 billion share buyback over the next 12 months. While $0.9 billion of that amount will be new shares to offset share-based compensation awards, a whopping $30 billion will reduce the overall number of outstanding shares. This buyback amounts to an "invisible dividend" that will directly benefit Bank of America shareholders.
Technology companies aren't usually known for their dividends. But database giant Oracle offers an attractive dividend yield of nearly 1.7%. Over the last five years, Oracle's dividend has doubled while its share price increased more than 40%.
Oracle appears to be in great shape to potentially double its dividend again within a few years. Its payout ratio is only 27.3%. And Wall Street analysts project that the company will increase its earnings by more than 9.4% annually over the next five years. If their estimates are right, Oracle should have plenty of additional money to use on its dividend program.
The tech giant has also bought back 25% of its stock over the last five years. Some feel Oracle has used these stock repurchases to "buy earnings beats" to please investors. Others, though, think that the company's slow-and-steady business could be quite appealing to income-seeking investors.
3. UnitedHealth Group
Like Oracle, UnitedHealth Group's dividend yield stands at just under 1.7%. The big healthcare company's dividend soared 188% over the last five years. Its stock performed even better, nearly tripling during the period.
Can UnitedHealth Group keep the dividend increases coming? Probably so. The company currently uses only 28.4% of its earnings to fund the dividend program. Analysts think that UnitedHealth Group will be able to grow earnings by nearly 14% annually on average over the next five years.
UnitedHealth Group should see solid growth in its Medicare and retirement business as Americans age. Its status as the biggest health insurer makes the company's products familiar to many potential buyers of health insurance. In addition, UnitedHealth Group's Optum businesses, which provide health management, health technology, and pharmacy benefits management (PBM) services, should also continue to deliver strong growth.
A few risks
These potential dividend doublers do have a few risks. Bank of America could be hurt if the economy nosedives and individuals default on loans at higher-than-anticipated rates. Oracle faces challenges from other big database vendors, as well as up-and-coming open-source database companies. UnitedHealth Group would be seriously wounded should the U.S. implement a single-payer health system that drastically reduced the need for private health insurance.
For now, though, all three stocks appear to be in reasonably good shape to continue growing. And they all should keep the dividend increases coming -- just as Cousin Eddie would probably like.