The pharmaceutical industry is chock-full of companies that offer attractive dividends. AbbVie (ABBV 0.72%) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ 2.40%) especially stand out. They're two of the largest drugmakers in the world with a long lineup of successful products.
But which is the better dividend stock? Here's how AbbVie and Johnson & Johnson stack up against each other.
The case for AbbVie
Probably the first thing most investors look at with a dividend stock is the yield. You'll like what you see with AbbVie on this front. Its dividend yield currently stands at nearly 3.7%.
That yield would be even higher if AbbVie's shares had not performed so well recently. The stock jumped 26% in 2021 and is up by a double-digit percentage so far this year while the overall market has tumbled.
AbbVie has also been remarkably consistent in growing its dividend. It's a Dividend King with 50 consecutive years of dividend increases. Since spinning off from Abbott Labs in 2013, the company has boosted its dividend payout by more than 250%.
The main knock against AbbVie is that it faces the U.S. loss of exclusivity (LOE) for Humira next year. Humira ranks by far as the company's top-selling drug. However, this LOE shouldn't impact AbbVie's dividend at all. The drugmaker fully expects to return to growth in 2024 that should accelerate through the rest of the decade.
The case for Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson has long been a favorite for income investors. Its dividend yield tops 2.5%. But the main reason investors like J&J is that it's viewed as an ultra-safe dividend stock.
Like AbbVie, Johnson & Johnson is a Dividend King. However, its track record is even more impressive with a 60-year streak of dividend hikes. No other healthcare company has increased its dividend for as many consecutive years as J&J has.
Johnson & Johnson has its own major change on the way in 2023. The company plans to spin off its consumer healthcare business. This transaction will leave J&J with its faster-growing pharmaceutical and medical device segments.
What about the dividend? No worries. J&J has publicly stated its dividend will remain "at least at the same level" as before the spin-off.
Better dividend stock
AbbVie seems likely to continue offering a higher yield. However, it's likely that the company's dividend increases will be smaller over the next few years than in the past due to the Humira LOE.
On the other hand, it's hard to beat Johnson & Johnson's dividend when it comes to dependability. For that matter, it's hard to beat J&J as a business on that front. The company first opened its doors in 1886. It's survived and thrived through depressions, recessions, world wars, and other global crises.
I suspect that Johnson & Johnson will deliver stronger growth over the next three years as AbbVie deals with the effects of declining sales for Humira. Over the next decade and beyond, though, it could be a different story.
Several of J&J's products will also lose exclusivity over the next few years. Key U.S. patents for autoimmune-disease drug Stelara, which accounted for 9.7% of total revenue in 2021, expire in 2023. U.S. patents for J&J's second-largest franchise, cancer drug Darzalex, expire in 2029.
Income investors wouldn't go wrong with picking either of these stocks. But AbbVie already has two successors to Humira on the market (Rinvoq and Skyrizi) that should generate combined greater peak sales than Humira did. My view is that AbbVie gets the slight nod because of this and its higher dividend yield.