This past year has been the ultimate stress test for dividend stocks. Some companies failed miserably as they either slashed or suspended their payouts to preserve cash during the pandemic. But others passed with flying colors as they continued to increase their shareholder payouts thanks to the strength of their business models and balance sheets.
Three in that latter group are Canadian pipeline giant TC Energy (TRP -0.55%), office REIT SL Green Realty (SLG 1.41%), and healthcare REIT Medical Properties Trust (MPW 4.21%). Not only has this trio continued to grow their payouts, but they also offer dividend yields over 5%, well above the S&P 500's current average of 1.6%.
Rock solid even in an industry rough patch
TC Pipelines delivered its 20th consecutive annual dividend increase in 2020. That raise came even though it was another tough year for the energy sector as the COVID-19 outbreak crushed oil demand. But the pandemic has had minimal impact on TC Pipeline's operations because of its business model, which focuses on operating pipelines and other infrastructure backed by long-term, fixed-rate contracts or government-regulated rates. Because of that, the company continued to grow its cash flow in 2020 as it also benefited from recently completed expansion projects.
Meanwhile, the company's upward trend should continue for the foreseeable future. TC Energy has 37 billion Canadian dollars ($28.9 billion) of expansion projects underway. That backlog should provide the fuel to grow its dividend by another 8% to 10% in 2021 and at a 5% to 7% yearly rate after that. Further supporting that outlook is its conservative dividend payout ratio of about 40% of its cash flow and its strong balance sheet. Because of those factors, its 5.7%-yielding dividend looks like one of the safest in the oil patch.
Standing tall, like its buildings
The pandemic has forced many companies to keep the bulk of their employees out of the office this year. Most adapted quickly to remote work thanks to communications tools like those offered by Zoom Video Communications and Slack Technologies. Because of that, many investors wondered if companies would return to the offices after the pandemic ends, which has put pressure on office REIT valuations.
However, SL Green Realty has proved that companies highly value having high-quality office space. The REIT has already signed new leases for 1.2 million square feet of office space this year in its Manhattan-focused portfolio, including seven leases for its $1.4 billion One Vanderbilt Avenue development project that it opened this fall.
Meanwhile, it has also proved that investors still highly value high-quality trophy properties, evidenced by the recent sale of a New York City development project for $952.5 million. That sale price locked in a huge profit, giving the REIT the cash to repay debt, repurchase more of its beaten-down stock, and pay a special dividend.
On top of that, the REIT's confidence in its future enabled it to recently boost its dividend for the 10th straight year. That increased payout, which SL Green pays monthly, yields 6.3%, making it an attractive income stream backed by high-quality Manhattan office buildings.
A healthy dividend
Medical Properties Trust owns hospitals that it leases to operators under long-term contracts. While these facilities have been ground zero for the pandemic, that hasn't hurt its tenants' ability to pay rent. The REIT expects to collect 100% of what it bills this year. Because of that, its 5.1% dividend is on solid ground.
Meanwhile, that payout has lots of upside. Medical Properties has acquired $3 billion of hospital-related real estate this year and anticipates 2021 being another active investment year. It should have no problem funding that growth since it has a solid balance sheet, which gives it lots of financial flexibility. Add in a reasonably conservative dividend payout ratio, and this REIT should be able to continue growing its dividend as it has done in each of the last seven years.
High-quality, high-yielding dividends
TC Energy, SL Green Realty, and Medical Property Trust have proved their dividends' durability this year. All three companies had the financial fortitude to continue increasing their already above-average payouts. Meanwhile, with lots of growth ahead for this trio, their big-time dividends seem likely to continue growing in the coming years.