When a company releases its quarterly report, that's normally around the time investors will learn about any dividend cuts, and there have been no shortage of them lately. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has forced the hand of many executives to take actions to conserve cash, and sometimes it involves either cutting or suspending dividend payments.
But not all stocks are struggling. The three listed below are coming off some good earnings reports and their dividends still look safe.
GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) released its first-quarter earnings on April 29. The company came off a strong showing with its sales up 19% from the prior-year period. Both sales and profits came in better than analyst expectations as the company benefited from consumers stockpiling products like pain medication as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. And there's reason to be optimistic that GSK's numbers could get even stronger as economies in Europe begin to open back up. On the earnings call, Luke Miels, the president of global pharmaceuticals, said that wellness visits dropped during the quarter by two-thirds, likely attributed to COVID-19. That likely hindered demand for certain vaccines, including its Tdap vaccine Boostrix, which saw shipment volumes drop by 70%.
Another reason to be bullish on GSK is that the company will begin trials on an experimental drug, otilimab, which could treat patients who have pneumonia that's related to COVID-19. The results of the trial are likely to be available by the end of this year. GSK's also working on trying to get a vaccine for COVID-19.
The company's versatility and diversification make it a strong stock to invest in, one that can withstand the challenges related to COVID-19 while taking advantage of the opportunities that arise from it as well. The U.K.-based company is so diverse that it's splitting up into two over the next two years -- one business will focus on developing drugs and another that will focus on consumer healthcare.
GSK currently pays investors a dividend that, after converting into U.S. dollars, yields about 4.5% per year. The stock is down 11% year to date.
Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is also coming off a strong performance in its most recent quarter. The tech giant released its third-quarter earnings on April 29 which showed year-over-year sales growth of 15%. The company's cloud business, Azure, experienced revenue growth of 59% from the prior-year period, and server and cloud products were also up by 30% -- which is consistent with how they've performed in prior periods. The company noted that the impact of COVID-19 on its financials was minimal on its revenue in Q3, but it conceded that may not be the case in future periods.
However, with more users working from home during the pandemic and using the cloud, the company's diverse product offerings will help Microsoft weather the storm better than other companies. Its server and office products and cloud services made up $19.4 million in Q3, more than 55% of its revenue for the period. Windows and gaming are two other segments that are likely to continue to do well even during the pandemic, and they contributed another $7.6 million, or 22% of sales for the quarter. The biggest risk for the company is likely to come from search advertising and Linkedin as advertisers scale back what they're willing to pay for ads. However, combined, those two segments made up a more modest 11.5% of the company's top line this past quarter.
Given its diversification and demand for cloud services and products likely on the rise during the pandemic, Microsoft looks to be a safe dividend stock to hold today. The stock currently pays investors a quarterly dividend of $0.51 which today yields about 1.1% annually. While that's well below the 2% that investors can typically earn from the typical S&P 500 stock, it's not a bad payout given that shares of Microsoft are up 16% in 2020, well above the index's 11% decline.
3. Kraft Heinz
Kraft Heinz (NASDAQ:KHC) announced its first-quarter results on April 30. The consumer goods company had a solid performance during the first three months of the year as sales rose by 3.3% from the prior-year period and both revenue and profits beat analyst expectations. The company saw an increase in demand during the quarter as a result of COVID-19 with consumers buying more than normal as they prepared for prolonged business shutdowns and stay at home orders.
Condiments and sauces, which make up more than one-quarter of the company's net sales, rose by 4.4% from the prior-year period. The largest increase came from ambient foods, which can be stored at room temperature and normally have a long shelf life. Sales of those products rose from $598 million a year ago up to $716 million, for an increase of 20%.
The stock currently pays investors a quarterly dividend of $0.40 which on an annual basis yields 5.4%. One of the company's goals for 2020 is to maintain its current dividend, and that's something that CFO Paulo Basilio says the company is on track to do. Shares of Kraft Heinz are down around 10% so far in 2020.
Which stock is the best buy today?
If you're OK with a modest dividend, then Microsoft may be the best choice for you today, as it may continue to generate strong growth in the quarters ahead as working from home remains the norm for many businesses. However, both Kraft and GSK offer superior payouts for those investors who want some recurring cash flow as they hold on to their shares. And the nod between those two goes to GSK. Its business is showing more growth than Kraft and with lots of diversity in its operations, it looks to be in a great position to do well this year. And its dividend is not that far behind Kraft, either. The healthcare giant is a solid pick that you can buy and hold on to for many years.