It's hard to believe we're already in the fourth quarter of this year. As we cruise toward the end of 2022, we can expect many companies to declare dividend raises. That's because quite a few like to finish their years on a high note, and for income investors, what could be a sweeter high than a payout bump?
Some habitual shareholder remunerators are already getting the jump on this. Two major ones that have already declared their 2022 dividend raises are Microsoft (MSFT -0.70%) and Verizon Communications (VZ -2.39%).
Microsoft, still one of the ubiquitous brands in the tech sector, has been a reliably steady quarterly dividend payer for nearly 20 years. Happily for its investors, it also raises its payout once a year. This year's model is a 10% lift to $0.68 per share.
The tech sector is extremely fast-paced, and as a result, companies have to be adaptable if they want to survive and thrive. Microsoft is Exhibit A in this respect: Over the years, it has successfully pivoted into a top cloud services provider, complementing its huge but not very dynamic PC operating-system business.
As a result, the nearly 50-year-old company continues to post growth numbers and margins that would be the envy of many hot young start-ups. In its fiscal year 2022, revenue and headline net profit grew by nearly 20%. Free cash flow (FCF) lagged only slightly behind, rising by 16% and landing at a hard-to-conceive $65 billion-plus. Is it any wonder that the tech behemoth is so willing to keep hiking that payout?
Microsoft's freshly raised dividend will be paid on Dec. 8 to investors of record as of Nov. 17. At the stock's most recent closing price, this would yield 1.2%.
Another member of the annual dividend-raise club is Verizon, which has declared a 2% bump in its quarterly payout to just over $0.65 per share.
Verizon isn't hugely popular just now. It has suffered the double blows of 1) being a tech-adjacent stock, at a time when investors are avoiding such titles; and 2) missing on the bottom line, and trimming full-year guidance in its latest quarterly earnings report.
But the resulting slump in share price makes for an attractive buying opportunity. In terms of postpaid customers (i.e., those under contract), Verizon is the leader of the three telecom incumbents on the U.S. market.
Such consumers are quite sticky because people tend to stay with a carrier once they've chosen it. Meanwhile, the long-tail 5G upgrade cycle continues to make recent-model phones compelling, and they produce additional revenue opportunities from the higher-bandwidth service.
Importantly, Verizon remains a cash-generating machine. Free cash flow (FCF) in its latest reported quarter fell only marginally on a year-over-year basis to land at almost $6.2 billion -- more than twice what the company paid out to shareholders for the period. The company's vaunted high-yield dividend, then, looks very safe.
Speaking of that, the upcoming higher distribution is to be handed out on Nov. 1 to stockholders of record as of Friday, Oct. 7. It would yield nearly 6.9% at Verizon's current stock price.