Canadian pipeline giant Enbridge (NYSE:ENB) has done an excellent job rewarding dividend investors over the years. The energy company has not only paid dividends for 64 straight years but has also increased it in each of the last 24 years. These raises have helped push its yield up to an above-average 5.9%, making it a great option for retirement-focused investors.

That high-yield payout is on an increasingly sturdy foundation, which was one of the key takeaways from Enbridge's third-quarter results.

A money bag with the word Dividends written on it

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The cash continued to flow for Enbridge in the third quarter

Enbridge generated an impressive 2.1 billion Canadian dollars ($1.6 billion), or CA$1.04 ($0.79) per share, of distributable cash flow during the third quarter. That's up 12% on a per-share basis compared to the year-ago period. It also pushed the company's year-to-date cash flow to CA$3.56 ($2.69) per share, which is 5% above where it was in the year-ago period. Overall, the company has generated enough cash to cover its high-yielding payout by a comfortable 1.6 times.

The main factor driving Enbridge's growth has been its liquids pipeline system. Volumes have risen thanks in part to the expansion projects it has completed over the past year. That has helped more than offset weaker performance in the company's gas transmission business due to recent asset sales.

Overall, the company has closed more than CA$6 billion ($4.5 billion) of asset sales since last August. That has given it the cash to finance expansion projects while also pushing its leverage ratio down to 4.6 times debt-to-EBITDA at the end of the quarter, which is at the low end of its target range of 4.5 to 5.0. Leverage should further decline in the coming quarters as additional expansion projects come online, and the company closes the last of its previously announced asset sales.

Heading for a high-end finish in 2019

Enbridge's solid showing in the third quarter keeps it firmly on track to achieve its full-year guidance. As things currently stand, the company is on pace to exceed the midpoint of its forecast for cash flow of CA$4.30 to CA$4.60 ($3.25 to $3.48) per share.

One factor that should help the company achieve a higher-end result is that it expects to place several more expansion projects into service during the fourth quarter. The biggest is the Canadian portion of its Line 3 Replacement project, which should enter service on Dec 1. In addition to that, the Hohe See offshore wind farm in Germany should be fully operational in the fourth quarter, while the company and its partners expect to place the Gray Oak oil pipeline in service by year-end.

Lots of momentum heading into 2020

The near-term completion of those projects sets Enbridge up for continued growth in 2020. As things currently stand, the company is on track to generate CA$5.00 per share ($3.78 per share) in cash flow next year. That sets it up to continue growing its dividend, likely increasing it by another 10% for 2020.

Meanwhile, the pipeline company continues to make progress in capturing new expansion opportunities. During the quarter, it signed an agreement to jointly develop the Rio Bravo pipeline, which will support a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal in Texas. Enbridge and its partners are working on expanding both the Seaway pipeline and the Bakken pipeline system. Meanwhile, it has some additional offshore wind farms in Europe under development.

These and other projects should enable Enbridge to continue growing its cash flow in the future. It's targeting 5% to 7% annual growth after 2020; that could support similar yearly increases in its dividend.

Keeping the dividend well-fueled

Enbridge's third-quarter report provided further confirmation that its expansion strategy is paying off as planned. The company's cash flow continued to grow even though it sold several assets, which helped bolster its balance sheet. With more expansions coming, Enbridge should have the fuel to keep growing its dividend for several more years. That makes it an ideal income stock for retirement-focused investors to consider holding for the long term.

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