Investors have endured a lot in the past year with economic issues, geopolitical tensions, and a pandemic that isn't entirely over yet. Further, although the market is performing better in 2023, there could be a recession later this year, according to the U.S. Federal Reserve.

In this shaky environment, it helps to invest in steady, dividend-paying companies that perform decently even when the economy tanks. Let's consider the case of Bristol Myers Squibb (BMY 2.17%). There is a lot to like about this company, particularly for value investors, making it a buy this May. 

Starting a new cycle

The best pharmaceutical companies generally have deep pipelines that allow them to launch new products regularly and keep their revenue and earnings flowing in the right direction over the long run. This description applies to Bristol Myers Squibb. The company's vast pipeline with several dozen clinical trials yields positive clinical and regulatory wins often enough.

Over the past four years, the drugmaker has launched brand new medicines that should drive top-line growth for a while before running into patent cliffs. These medicines include anemia treatment Reblozyl, multiple sclerosis treatment Zeposia, and plaque psoriasis therapy Sotyktu, among many others. All of these were launched between 2019 and 2022.

Bristol Myers' new products portfolio does not generate much in sales yet. In the first quarter, it racked up revenue of just $723 million. But that should increase substantially in time. The company estimated that it will generate between $10 billion and $13 billion in sales from these newer medicines by 2025. And, of course, the broader point regarding Bristol Myers' ability to develop new medicines is worth highlighting.

That is the best way to remain relevant in the pharmaceutical industry, and Bristol Myers is adept at it. Naturally, the company does have existing products that should still contribute significantly. For instance, cancer medicine Opdivo and anticoagulant Eliquis -- the rights to which Bristol Myers shares with Pfizer -- will be among the top 10 best-selling drugs in the world in 2023, according to the research company Evaluate Pharma.

A solid dividend stock at a reasonable value

In the first quarter, Bristol Myers' total revenue of $11.3 billion declined by 3% year over year. The company's adjusted earnings per share jumped by 5% year over year to $2.05. The biggest reason behind the declining sales was the loss of exclusivity for Bristol Myers' cancer medicine Revlimid, which used to be its top-selling product. The company was also affected by the negative impact of currency exchange rate fluctuations.

Revenue declined by just 1% in constant currency. Bristol Myers has dealt with slow (or nonexistent) revenue growth over the past year because of Revlimid's patent cliff and the strengthening of the U.S. dollar. However, the company's newest medicines should be able to make a meaningful impact in smoothing out the losses from declining sales of its former top-selling drug. Of course, currency exchange rates will eventually stabilize, too.

Meanwhile, the market seems to be underestimating Bristol Myers' long-term potential. The company's forward price-to-earnings is just 8.3 as of this writing, compared to an average earnings multiple of 15.4 for the pharmaceutical industry. Now turning to Bristol Myers' excellent dividend profile, the company offers a competitive yield of 3.33% compared to just 1.66% for the S&P 500. It has raised its payouts by 43% in the past five years, even amid the devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

With a modest 42% cash payout ratio, Bristol Myers can afford many more dividend hikes. That's what investors should expect, along with a return to stronger top-line growth. Investors focused on the long game should consider adding Bristol Myers Squibb shares to their portfolios while they are still trading at an attractive valuation.