As I pointed out yesterday, not every company that can pay a dividend does. And even among companies that do pay dividends, some are so tight-fisted that you'd think they were trying to squeeze water out of their cash.
But this certainly doesn't apply to all companies out there. In fact, some companies -- particularly in the wake of last year's downturn -- are paying dividends high enough to make an income-seeking investor drool.
Here are three high-yielders that I think are worth putting on your radar.
Tapping big oil
At first it might seem curious that BP
First and foremost, the company has simply been more generous with investors when it comes to dividends and has maintained a payout ratio above most of the other big energy players. Sure, some of the other big boys have doled out more in the form of share buybacks, but in the hands of most management teams, I'll take a dividend over a share buyback any day.
In addition, BP has been working to regain its footing after some years of poor management that led to lagging performance and some very unfortunate accidents. More recently, the company's fourth quarter led to some disappointment after BP missed analyst estimates and guided toward production declines for 2010.
So why hop on BP now? I think a lot of the concerns of "right now" are giving investors reason to pass up BP's fat yield. The company seems to have itself pointed in the right direction, and assuming oil prices don't take a nosedive like they did in late 2008, the company shouldn’t have much trouble keeping up its dividend.
In other words, look for BP to continue plugging along and continue to deliver on its historically strong dividend track record.
That's one smokin' yield
Call me boring, but how can I not include Altria
Of course, as we all know, past performance isn't always indicative of future results. And that may certainly be the case with Altria, particularly as the U.S. turns an ever-harsher eye toward cigarettes. But with a yield approaching 7%, investors don't need a heck of a lot in the way of growth to end up very happy.
But as attractive as investing in "sin" may seem to some, sin doesn't always pay all that well. Guinness-maker Diageo
So if you can stomach owning a tobacco company, Altria and its 6.9% yield look like a good bet.
Hold the phone for one more
Though I own shares of AT&T
But it's a different story outside of the U.S. Communications provide the backbone for economic growth, so for countries that aren't stodgy like the U.S. (no sugar-coating here) there is still good growth to be had by telecom providers.
With a number of good choices out there I decided to go with a stock that has also gotten the nod from the Motley Fool Income Investor team -- Philippine Long Distance Telephone
But I don't expect the payout to stay put. As the leading provider of both wireline and cellular services in the Philippines, PLDT stands to cash in as the country grows. Though global recession brought the country's GDP growth down to 1.6% for 2009, it was growing at a 7% clip back in 2007.
My bet? The Philippines will get back to chalking up sizable growth, and PLDT -- and its investors -- will ride the wave.
Of course, these three companies -- BP, Altria, and PLDT -- are far from the only ones paying their shareholders well, and I'm sure readers have some high-yield favorites of their own. So now that you've heard my piece, head down to the comments section below and pound the table on your favorite dividend stocks.
My fellow Fool Morgan Housel wants to save you from a $376 billion bubble that's set to do some damage.
Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer owns shares of AT&T and BP, but does not own shares of any of the other companies mentioned. You can check out what Matt is keeping an eye on by visiting his CAPS portfolio, or you can follow Matt on Twitter @KoppTheFool. The Fool’s disclosure policy has never once been caught with its pants down. Of course, it doesn't actually wear pants …