Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT) has a gift on the way for all of its shareholders. And it's the kind of gift that keeps on giving throughout the entire year. 

Last week, the company's board of directors approved a 12.5% dividend increase. The announcement came just in time for the holidays, so the higher dividend could be viewed as a Christmas gift. However, it might be better seen as a Valentine's Day present: The dividend will actually be paid on Feb. 14, 2020, to shareholders of record as of Jan. 15, 2020.

Abbott's dividend increase brings the healthcare giant's dividend yield to nearly 1.7%. If that's not enough to entice you to invest in the stock, there are several other reasons you might want to consider buying Abbott.

A package is wrapped in a fifty dollar bill and a red bow.

Image source: Getty Images.

It's not just one dividend increase

A one-time dividend hike of 12.5% is great, but by itself isn't enough to get excited about. But put into context, Abbott's recently announced dividend increase is pretty exciting.

This marks Abbott's 48th consecutive year of dividend increases. That track record lands Abbott a spot among the elite group of stocks known as Dividend Aristocrats -- S&P 500 members that have raised their dividends for at least 25 years in a row.

Abbott's not too far away from joining an even more prestigious group -- Dividend Kings. These stocks have increased their dividends for an impressive 50 consecutive years. I think it's a virtual certainty that Abbott will become a Dividend King in a couple of years.

The dividend payable in February 2020 will also be Abbott's 384th consecutive quarterly dividend paid out. When a company has been sending dividend checks since Calvin Coolidge was president of the U.S., you can sleep peacefully knowing that the dividends are likely to keep on flowing.

More good things on the way

Abbott has delivered a strong return of close to 20% so far in 2019. Some might point out that this performance lags behind the S&P 500's year-to-date gain of 28%. However, over the last three years, Abbott has soared 127%, compared with only 42% for the S&P 500 index. 

More importantly, Abbott has several good things on the way that should enable its stock to beat the market. Put the anticipated FDA clearance of the new version of Freestyle Libre at the top of the list. The continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system is already a big success for Abbott. It could soon become a monster success.

Sales for Freestyle Libre jumped 63% year over year to $496 million in the third quarter of 2019. That puts the CGM system on a path to annual sales of around $2 billion. But the new version of Freestyle Libre should be able to rake in annual sales of $5 billion and perhaps a lot more than that.

And that's just one growth driver for Abbott. Sales continue to soar for the company's MitraClip device for treating mitral regurgitation, or leaky heart valves. In the third quarter, Abbott won FDA approval for the next generation of this device. Look for even more impressive sales growth in the future.

The company's Alinity family of diagnostics systems is really picking up steam in international markets. But it's still really early for Alinity in the U.S. -- the biggest market of all.

Dividends and growth

Abbott Labs is without question a solid dividend stock. Its latest dividend hike only adds to the company's credentials on that front. However, Abbott is also an attractive growth opportunity, too.

Wall Street analysts project the company will deliver average annual earnings growth of 11% over the next five years. That's a level that many investors should like, especially with Abbott's ever-increasing dividends thrown into the mix.

You can certainly find stocks that pay higher dividend yields. And you can find stocks that have stronger growth prospects. But there aren't too many stocks that provide great dividends and growth and that claim a track record like Abbott Labs.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.