Investing is a long-term game that always carries risk; growing wealth over time requires time, patience, and an ability to weather the storms. For investors who are keen on enjoying regular, stable income in the meantime, dividend stocks are the way to go.
Among my favorite dividend picks right now are cannabis real estate investment trust Innovative Industrial Properties (IIPR -2.43%) and consumer goods and healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson (JNJ 0.61%). Let's dive deeper to find out why these two are among the best dividend stocks to invest in right now.
Innovative Industrial Properties is more than a dividend stock
Being a REIT, Innovative Industrial Properties is legally bound to pay 90% of its taxable income back to shareholders. Thanks to its smart business model, it has been able to grow its adjusted funds from operations, or AFFO, at a drastic rate. AFFO is a measure of determining the profits of a REIT that can be paid as dividends (similar to net earnings for a non-REIT). Innovative Industrial Properties's AFFO grew 105% year over year to $43 million in its recent quarter ended June 30.
This was fueled by an outstanding increase in revenue and profits. For the quarter, revenue jumped 101% year over year to $49 million, while profits more than doubled as well, reaching $29 million from $13 million in the year-ago period. All this growth also permitted Innovative to make another 32% year-over-year hike in its quarterly dividend to $1.40 per share. This was the 11th dividend hike for the company since its initial public offering in 2016.
Its business model is related to marijuana, one of the fastest-growing sectors right now. Because the drug remains federally illegal in the U.S., it's difficult for cannabis companies to acquire larger production facilities through traditional financing. Innovative offers real estate capital to pot companies by buying these properties and leasing them back, bringing in rental revenue.
The REIT already owns 73 properties in 18 states totaling 6.8 million square feet of space, and a full 100% of its properties are leased out by cannabis companies. Its tenants include popular U.S. cannabis players Cresco Labs, Trulieve Cannabis, Curaleaf Holdings, and Green Thumb Industries, all of which boast expansion plans that make me believe Innovative has a bright future ahead.
Johnson & Johnson's diversified business model is its biggest strength
Johnson & Johnson is a very popular name. Its brands, including Listerine, Neutrogena, Benadryl, Stayfree, and more, are everyday names for many consumers across the world. But what really leads me to believe this company's growth is unstoppable is the diversity of its business segments: consumer health, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices.
This assortment of offerings has helped fuel the business' proud status as a Dividend King, a company that has increased dividends for at least 50 years in a row (in Johnson & Johnson's case, it's 59). On April 20, it increased its quarterly dividend again, this time by 5% to $1.06 per share. With a dividend payout ratio (based on cash flow) of 38.9%, the company is stable enough to continue paying dividends to its shareholders. (The payout ratio allows investors to determine if the company's dividend payments are sustainable; the lower, the better.)
In its recent second quarter, its reported sales grew 27% year over year to $23 billion, leading to a jump of 49% in adjusted net earnings. Despite the ongoing pandemic, the company saw double-digit growth in all three of its segments, with a drastic jump of 63% year over year in the medical device segment. Management attributed the success to market recovery for medical devices and elective procedures that had been deferred during the pandemic. The U.S. market, which has slowly started recovering, is responsible for about 50% of its total sales.
The company expects fiscal 2021 adjusted operational sales to grow year over year by 12.5% to 13.5%, a hike from previous guidance of 8.7% to 9.9%. It also expects to see fiscal 2021 adjusted diluted earnings per share of $9.50 to $9.60, an increase of 18.4% to 19.6% from the year-ago period. I think this is achievable. Most of its drugs generate billions in sales every year. Even though its pharmaceuticals segment retains a share of risk (given that not every drug it works on will succeed), its diversification keeps its business stable and its income and dividends growing.
No halting the growth of these two dividend stocks
The dividend yields for Innovative and Johnson & Johnson aren't sky-high, though at 2.4% and 2.3% respectively, they compare well to the S&P 500's average of 1.3%. However, when considering dividend stocks, investors should not place all focus on yield. The fact that both of these businesses have managed to increase their dividends and pay them consistently gives me faith in their stability, making them my top dividend picks. As long as these companies keep growing, so will their dividends.
Johnson & Johnson has one of the strongest global footprints in the business. Its brand popularity and the fact that most of its products are non-cyclical keeps it safe even during turbulent times. The company is not dependent on just one product for generating revenue. And its success with its COVID-19 vaccine is the cherry on top -- the company expects around $2.5 billion in 2021 sales from its vaccine. If total sales grow at the upper end of the company's guidance to around $94 billion, the contribution from the COVID-19 vaccine will be around 2.7% in 2021.
Similarly, Innovative Industrial Properties' involvement in the rapidly evolving marijuana sector makes it a secure bet. The continuing ramp-up of state legalization will just open up more acquisition opportunities for the company. Besides offering dividends, it also allows investors a safe and indirect entry into the cannabis sector, which experts predict could bring in close to $41 billion in annual U.S. sales by 2026.