Know what's great? Owning a dividend-paying stock. The company literally pays you, quarter after quarter, just for holding onto your shares!
Know what's even better? Owning a dividend-paying stock whose dividend is constantly growing. You'll get paid more next year, even more the year after that... And if that dividend grows enough, soon it might pay you twice as much!
Three stocks whose dividends could double include Brookfield Infrastructure Partners (BIP -3.30%), NextEra Energy (NEE -3.43%), and Apple (AAPL -4.03%). Here's why investors who like making more and more money every year should take a closer look at them.
Growth and reliability
It's not often that an investment combines strong growth prospects with a reliable payout, but Canadian infrastructure master limited partnership (MLP) Brookfield Infrastructure Partners seems to have discovered the secret sauce.
Brookfield owns a globally diversified set of assets in essential industries like energy, telecommunications, and transportation. Better yet, about 95% of Brookfield's cash flow comes from regulated assets or assets that it operates under fixed-rate, long-term contracts. So, even if Brookfield's transportation assets like toll roads and railways see a drop in usage due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions, the company should have no trouble funding its distribution, the MLP equivalent of a dividend.
Due to its MLP status, Brookfield is required to return most of its cash flow to investors through its distribution, which is why it's currently yielding a juicy 4.7% yield. Better yet, Brookfield is planning to grow that distribution by between 5% and 9% per year. If Brookfield could maintain growth at the upper end of that range, its dividend would double in less than a decade.
While there's no way to know if the company can maintain that level of growth for that long, investors who buy into Brookfield now will get a diversified group of cash-generating assets, a management team with an excellent track record, and a large and growing payout. Sounds like a good deal to me.
Fun in the sun
We head from the great white north of Canada all the way down to the Sunshine State for our next potential dividend doubler, NextEra Energy.
NextEra is two companies in one. It's the largest electric utility in the country by number of households served, with nearly 5.5 million customer accounts across Florida. It's also a major generator of electricity, particularly from renewable sources, producing 46 gigawatts of power per year. Just over half of that power goes directly to its utility customers, but NextEra sells the rest to other utilities for a tidy profit.
You might think that such a large company wouldn't have much growth left in it, but NextEra's management is powering ahead (no pun intended) with its growth plans. It has an 8 gigawatt backlog of renewable energy projects, and it plans to add an additional 3.5 gigawatts' worth of projects by 2022. It expects earnings per share to grow at a compounded annual rate of between 6% and 8% through 2022, and on the Q1 2020 earnings call, CEO James Robo and CFO Rebecca Kujawa both said they'd be "disappointed" if NextEra wasn't able to deliver results at the top end of that range through 2022.
Management is anticipating a dividend growth of 10% per year through 2022, and if it can maintain that rate, NextEra's dividend -- currently yielding 2.1% -- would double in less than eight years. NextEra looks like a buy for renewable energy fans and dividend investors alike.
A fundamental shift
Our next company's products can be found everywhere from Canada to Florida and beyond. It's tech behemoth Apple.
It's tough to think of a tech company -- especially a tech titan like Apple -- as being a dividend stock, but it's been paying a regular quarterly dividend since 2012. Better yet, it's been upping that payout every year. The company's recent dividend increase, announced April 30, brings its annual payout to $3.28/share, or about 1% at today's share price. That's more than double the split-adjusted 2012 dividend of $1.52/share, which means Apple's dividend has already doubled in eight years.
It's not clear, though, that we'll see the same level of growth over the next eight years. In 2019, after two straight years of double-digit percentage increases to the dividend, Apple upped its payout by just 5.2%, and this year's increase was only 6.5%. If these mid-single-digit percentage increases become the norm, the dividend will still double eventually, but in about 13 to 15 years as opposed to eight.
On the other hand, Apple CEO Tim Cook reiterated on the Q1 2020 earnings call that Apple is committed to becoming "net cash neutral," which he has previously defined as having "an equal amount of cash and debt, and that they balance to zero." With the company raking in between $50 billion and $75 billion in free cash flow every year for the last five years, returning some of that cash to investors is going to be a big part of achieving that goal.
Apple's shares are currently trading at more than 26 times earnings -- a 10-year high for the company -- so its previous strategy of using share buybacks to reward investors may be less attractive in the future than upping its dividend payout by double-digit percentages. At current levels, Apple is only paying out 21.7% of its free cash flow as dividends, so there's plenty of room to grow, which means that dividend payout could double faster than you might expect.
What's really important
A doubled dividend is great, and investors should cheer when it happens to a stock in their portfolios. But the potential of a dividend to double isn't the only consideration investors should have when evaluating a company. Looking for a reliable outperformer with a history of payout increases and good prospects for future growth in its industry is important, too. Luckily, Brookfield Infrastructure Partners, NextEra Energy, and Apple all fit the bill.