Cash does not lie: Sustained dividend growth in the long term is a clear indication of a sound business generating predictable and reliable cash flows for investors over time. Coca-Cola (KO 1.64%), Colgate-Palmolive (CL 2.21%), Procter & Gamble (PG 2.04%), Lowe's (LOW -0.12%), and Lancaster Colony (LANC 1.62%) have increased their dividends over the last 50 consecutive years. Furthermore, they are strong enough to continue growing their payments for many more years.
Coca-Cola is the undisputed leader in the global soft drinks business; the company owns a portfolio of 16 brands generating more than $1 billion in sales per year. In addition, Coca-Cola benefits from tremendous scale advantages and a gigantic global distribution network protecting the company from the competition.
Coke has raised its dividends over the last 51 consecutive years, including a 10% hike announced in February 2013. The company pays a dividend yield of 2.8% and has a sustainable payout ratio around 57% of earnings.
Colgate-Palmolive is a global powerhouse in oral care thanks to its market leadership in toothpastes, toothbrushes, and mouthwashes. Not only that, the company also has sizable operations in personal care, pet nutrition, and home care. Colgate sells its products in more than 220 countries and makes more than 80% of sales from its international markets.
Colgate has paid uninterrupted dividends since 1895 and has raised those payments over the last 50 years in a row. Its dividend yield is 2.1%, and the company has a safe payout ratio near 51% of earnings.
Procter & Gamble
Procter & Gamble owns a gigantic portfolio of global brands in different household and personal care categories, including 25 brands with sales of more than $1 billion per year. This global juggernaut does business in more than 180 countries and serves 4.8 billion people around the planet.
P&G has paid a dividend since 1890, and the company has increased its distributions over the last 57 consecutive years. The stock pays a 3% dividend yield, and the payout ratio is around 60% of earnings.
Lowe's is the second-largest home improvement retailer in the world. The company owns more than 1,825 home improvement and hardware stores, serving approximately 15 million customers in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
The fact that Lowe's was able to continue raising its dividends through the housing crisis in 2008 and 2009 speaks wonders about the company's strength and management quality.
Lowe's has paid a dividend since 1961 and has raised payments over the last 51 consecutive years. The payout ratio is comfortably low, in the area of 32%, and the dividend yield is 1.4%.
Lancaster Colony is a manufacturer and marketer of consumer products, primarily focused on specialty foods. The company's brands include names like Marzetti, New York Brands, and Sister Schubert's. With a market capitalization of $2.35 billion, Lancaster Colony is materially smaller than other companies with extraordinarily long track records of growing dividends, but the company has nothing to envy when it comes to dividend growth.
Lancaster Colony has paid consecutive quarterly dividends since 1963, and it has raised payments over the last 51 years in a row, including a 5.2% increase from $0.38 per share to $0.4 per share during 2013. The stock yields 2% in dividends, and the payout ratio is below 40% of earnings.
Building a track record of 50 consecutive years of dividend growth requires much more than time. Growing dividends through all kinds of economic and financial scenarios is a sign of fundamental strength, financial soundness, and management quality. Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, Procter & Gamble, Lowe's, and Lancaster Colony are part of a select group of companies with an extraordinary history of dividend growth. Even better, they have what it takes to continue raising their dividends for years into the future.