Consumer products giant Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) is widely regarded as a legendary dividend stock. There's good reason for this, as P&G is a member of the exclusive Dividend Aristocrats, a list that includes only companies that have increased their dividends for at least 25 years in a row. In fact, P&G is a Dividend Aristocrat more than twice over -- it's raised its shareholder payout for an amazing 58 consecutive years.
But whether P&G's future will be as impressive as its historical track record is a different question. P&G's growth is slowing down, and it's having trouble effectively penetrating the emerging markets. The stock seems overvalued given its relatively weak growth. For these reasons, I believe dividend growth investors would be better off buying one of P&G's smaller rivals, Church & Dwight Co. (NYSE:CHD).
P&G's growth leveling off
The primary concern I have with P&G is its slowing growth. For large international companies like P&G, the strengthening U.S. dollar is a stiff headwind, as the rising dollar makes international revenue less valuable when it's converted back into the domestic currency. Unfavorable currency translation was a major reason why P&G's revenue and earnings per share from continuing operations fell 4% and 5%, respectively, during the first three quarters of the year.
However, even when excluding currency, P&G isn't growing much. The company's currency-neutral revenue grew just 1% last quarter, year over year.
P&G suffered poor results in two key segments -- its Beauty, Hair, and Personal Grooming unit, as well as its Fabric and Home Care business -- which collectively represent 52% of P&G's total revenue. The beauty segment posted a 3% decline in organic sales, while the fabric business was flat. Organic declines can't be written off by currency; these represent bigger issues with underlying demand for P&G's products.
Church & Dwight in high-growth mode
By comparison, Church & Dwight is experiencing much more success this year. Church & Dwight might not be a household name with the likes of P&G, but it's got plenty of strong brands that are likely found in millions of households across the world. Church & Dwight's core brands include Arm & Hammer, Nair, Oxi Clean, Vitafusion, and Trojan.
These high-quality brands have led to very strong growth for the company. Church & Dwight grew organic sales, which strips out currency effects, by 5% in the fourth quarter and 3% in the first quarter of 2015. And, Church & Dwight grew organic EPS by 8% last year, and 13% in the first quarter. These strong results led the company to raise its full-year guidance, as management now expects 7%-9% core EPS growth in 2015. Compare this to P&G, which expects core EPS to be flat to down mid-single digits.
It's also worth noting that Church & Dwight is no dividend slouch. The company recently declared its 457th regular quarterly dividend, and has increased its dividend for 19 years in a row. Its last dividend increase was 8%, which was far greater than P&G's 3% dividend increase earlier this year. This reflects the difference in each company's respective sales and earnings growth rates.
Church & Dwight: Better for dividend growth investors
P&G offers a higher dividend yield than Church & Dwight -- 3.3% compared to 1.6%. Therefore, it's entirely reasonable for investors who need current income, such as retirees, to stick with P&G. But for those investors with a longer time horizon, such as dividend growth investors, Church & Dwight is likely to be a better longer-term bet. Its lower dividend yield will catch up to P&G's yield over time as a result of its much higher dividend growth.
From a total return perspective, Church & Dwight looks like a better stock. Its valuation is comparable to P&G's; but with much higher earnings growth, it's likely to generate higher stock price appreciation than its larger, stodgy competitor.