Traditionally, the key to finding stocks with healthy dividends was to look for stable, slow-growth mature businesses with reliable demand from customers. Consumer-products company Kimberly Clark (NYSE:KMB) certainly fits the bill in that respect, with millions of consumers around the world relying on its Kleenex tissues, Huggies diapers, and countless other products in their everyday lives. For more than 40 years, Kimberly Clark has been treating dividend investors well, raising its payouts annually without a break. But just because a company has been strong in the past doesn't mean you shouldn't look more closely at it to make sure it's in position to stay strong. To assess any potential threats to its dividend, let's look more closely at two things every dividend investor should know about Kimberly Clark.
1. Kimberly Clark's spinoff of its Halyard Health unit will likely have no impact on dividends.
Last year, Kimberly Clark announced that it would spin off its health-care unit into a separately traded public company called Halyard Health. That transaction is now slated to close at the end of October, with shares of Halyard to start trading on Nov. 3.
Ordinarily, when a company spins off part of its operations, it can have a dramatic enough impact that it results in changes to its dividend policy. For instance, investors might expect that the spun-off company will pay a dividend of its own, and that can necessitate a payout reduction for the former parent company since it no longer has the revenue coming from the spun-off business.
In this case, though, the Kimberly Clark spinoff isn't likely to have any impact on dividends. Halyard's registration statement said that investors shouldn't expect any cash dividends on Halyard stock, suggesting that Kimberly Clark's ongoing operations were producing the bulk of income available for dividend payouts.
On the other hand, though, Kimberly Clark won't take the one-time cash payout that Halyard will make under the transaction and pay it as a special dividend. Instead, the company raised its share repurchase target by $500 million to $700 million, with expectations for a full $2 billion.
2. Kimberly Clark is working in several different directions that should all contribute toward sustained dividend growth in the future.
Dividend investors always want to know how a company will keep growing its payouts. Fortunately, Kimberly Clark has a number of ways in which it's aiming to boost its available cash for dividends.
On the revenue front, Kimberly Clark is looking to tap its highest-growth markets to the fullest extent possible. In large part, that requires Kimberly Clark to look beyond the mature U.S. market, as growth opportunities domestically are much less attractive, and the company has plenty of competition despite its leadership position in several of its key brands. But in emerging markets, Kimberly Clark has had a lot of success in generating organic sales, with areas like China, Russia, Brazil, and Eastern Europe having posted diaper-sales growth of 15%-30% recently. By introducing its products to new audiences of consumers, Kimberly Clark can maximize its potential opportunities worldwide.
At the same time, though, Kimberly Clark has also started focusing on being more cost-conscious. The company's Focus on Reducing Costs Everywhere initiative, or FORCE, has started addressing concerns about the rising costs of raw materials that threatened to erode Kimberly Clark's margins. Yet regardless of the input costs that Kimberly Clark has, reducing costs and expanding operating margins helps the company make more from less. That's especially important when a strong dollar leads to a discount in the value of international sales.
Kimberly Clark has put together an impressive history of paying steadily rising dividends to its shareholders. Even as it takes further steps to generate growth for its business, Kimberly Clark clearly remains committed to growing its dividend in the future as well, and right now, its efforts to boost its earnings demonstrate just how much promise the stock has for dividend investors.