In the coronavirus-fueled bear market, finding a dividend stock that hasn't taken a major hit is akin to searching for the Holy Grail. Companies have been slashing dividends right and left, leaving some investors to wonder whether it's even worth it to buy dividend-paying stocks right now. While there are valid arguments for both the pros and cons of dividend investing in the COVID-19 market, there are still strong dividend stocks to be found for investors with a long-term buying philosophy in mind.
No stock is 100% recession-proof. That said, by investing in high-paying dividend stocks holding steadfast in the bear market, you can still enjoy solid dividend income in these uncertain times and the recovery period to follow. And by scooping up more shares of safe dividend-paying stocks, you can enjoy a significant return on your investment once the market rights again.
In particular, Novartis (NYSE:NVS), AbbVie (NYSE:ABBV), and Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) have risen to the forefront as attractive buying opportunities since the coronavirus market crash. Not only does each company have a consistent history of increasing or maintaining its dividend year after year, but each has experienced relatively low volatility during these unprecedented times.
The case for Novartis
Novartis was not immune to the mass decline in share prices back in March; the stock was near $100 in mid-February before dropping to about $70 on March 23. However, Novartis has made a fantastic rebound in recent weeks, so much so that it is currently sitting about 12% beneath its highest price over the past year ($99.84) and roughly 28% above the stock's 52-week low of $69.18.
Novartis is a true giant in the pharma industry, and one of the reasons the company has continued to flourish in spite of the coronavirus market is its diverse portfolio of high-growth assets. In 2019, the company brought in net revenue totaling just under $48 billion, representing a 9% increase from the year before. Cash flow totaled approximately $13 billion, for a year-over-year rise of 15%. A significant portion of Novartis' revenue was from heart failure drug Entresto and psoriasis drug Cosentyx.
Novartis also received five major drug approvals from the FDA in 2019, and it closed the year with a total of 164 drug trials in process. One of the most notable approvals was for the use of gene therapy medication Zolgensma to treat spinal muscular atrophy in small children; the disease is one of the foremost causes of infant death. Most recently, Novartis received FDA authorization to move forward with clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a prospective coronavirus treatment. (That said, recent trials of hydroxychloroquine in VA hospitals showed an increased death rate among patients receiving the treatment.)
Novartis' dividend yield is a solid 3.5%. The company has a fantastic track record of boosting its dividend year after year. Novartis has consistently approved yearly dividend increases since 1996. This fact, coupled with Novartis's strong revenue base and healthy cash flow, makes this stock a viable option for long-term growth investors.
The case for AbbVie
AbbVie has not only an excellent dividend yield of 5.87% but a strong valuation and a varied product portfolio to help it weather the current storm. The company has boosted its dividend payout 47 years in a row, without fail. Over the years since AbbVie broke away from Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT) in 2013, the company's dividend payout has risen by a mind-blowing 195%. Despite the fact that AbbVie shares plunged to a level just $2 above its 52-week low in March, the stock has bounced back and is sitting pretty at about 18% below its 52-week high.
In 2019, AbbVie reported yearly revenues of just more than $33 billion, representing about 10% year-over-year growth, largely driven by its versatile drug Humira. Humira has been one of the top-selling drugs in the world for a number of years now and was responsible for approximately $15 billion of AbbVie's total net revenue in 2019.
Back in March, AbbVie released an update regarding its much-anticipated proposed merger with Allergan (NYSE:AGN). AbbVie and Allergan have filed a consent decree agreement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for the purchase to the tune of a cool $63 billion. One of Allergan's most noteworthy products is Botox, but the company brings other impressive offerings to the table, ranging from eye-care products to pain relievers, all of which will further diversify AbbVie's portfolio. The deal with Allergan is expected to finalize in May.
The case for Amgen
Amgen was one of the remarkable few large-cap stocks to enter April with its share price up for the year. The company's unique and diversified portfolio of more than 36 products, including leading cancer and immune-boosting drugs, has thus far been largely unaffected by the coronavirus. The stock has more than surpassed its 52-week low of $166.30 and has been hovering at about $230 per share for the past week.
Amgen's stock also skyrocketed at the beginning of the month on the heels of the company's announcement of a collaboration with Adaptive Biotechnologies (NASDAQ:ADPT) to develop a coronavirus antibody treatment. Work on the drug candidate is set to begin immediately.
Amgen entered the coronavirus bear market from a position of relative strength in fiscal 2020, amassing sales of $6.2 billion in Q4 and total yearly revenue of $23.4 billion. It reported free cash flow of $8.5 billion in 2019. One of the company's leading revenue drivers in 2019 was the bone disorder drug Prolia, which earned $752 million in Q4 alone. Amgen's acquisition of billion-dollar blockbuster drug Otezla from Bristol Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY) is also promising for the company's growth story in 2020 and beyond.
It should also be noted that Amgen was one of a handful of stocks that outperformed the market during the 2008 recession. It looks poised to do so again. While the company has a fairly modest dividend yield of 2.77%, the prospect of slow but steady long-term gains from this growth stock is hard to pass up.