An amazing thing happened on April 7; Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), maker of Tide, Charmin, Cascade, Pampers, and many more household stalwarts, announced that it was raising its dividend. The amount was almost unremarkable, as Procter & Gamble raised its quarterly dividend from $0.60 per share to $0.64 per share. In a world that's obsessed with high frequency trading and hyping the next grow to the moon stock, a 6.7% dividend hike is about as pedestrian as it gets.
What makes this event remarkable is not the one time $0.04 raise, but that it continues Procter & Gamble's streak of paying dividends every year since 1890. You remember 1890, right? Benjamin Harrison was President, Herman Hollerith invented a set of punch cards that later spawned a fancy new technology company called IBM, and the US was involved in the Battle of Wounded Knee. People talk about running a sprint versus a marathon, and Procter & Gamble's dividend history is a case study in the latter.
As impressive as the length of the Procter & Gamble's dividend streak is, the company delivers real growth to investors, too. With its raise, Procter & Gamble extended its streak of raising its dividend to 58 consecutive years.
Why does this matter to investors? The movement of a company's stock price is the result of a wide array of factors, many of which have little to do with the company's performance itself. The result is volatility and spikes. Check out the blue line on the chart below, which shows Procter & Gamble's share price over the last ten years--that is a lot of ups and downs. Remember this is the company that sells Tide and Cascade, products that you use every day as predictably as the sun coming up. Now look at the orange line, which is the dividend.
Whereas Procter & Gamble's share price is prone to swinging all over the map, the dividend track record looks like as consistent as a set of stairs. The dividend shows a business that is as regular as the every day products that the company makes.
Rising dividends, of course, mean that the dividend is not being cut. Dividend cuts are no trivial matter. If there's a more dull company than diapers and dish detergent, its probably utilities. They don't grow much, but utilities just churn out cash for investors every year, right? Not always as it turns out.
Consider the case of the giant Chicago utility company Exelon (NYSE:EXC). Last year the company had to cut its dividend by 41%, and its shares followed suit. Even in an area of the market where business models are as dull as dishwater, investors need to pay attention to a company's commitment and ability to grow its dividend.
The share price is what pundits talk about. People like action, but boring is where the money is, and Procter & Gamble's dividend delivers the goods for investors year after year. Investors do not know what the share price is going to do from one year to the next, but they know they can count on dividend checks from Procter & Gamble. Just ask Benjamin Harrison.