Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) is a dividend champ, having boosted its payout for an incredible 59 consecutive years. However, the consumer-goods giant hasn't impressed income investors lately. Its 3% hike this year was the smallest in recent memory, and its payout ratio is now well above two-thirds of earnings. With those stumbles in mind, we asked a few dividend-loving Motley Fool contributors for a stock that they prefer over P&G right now.
Demitrios Kalogeropoulos: Home Depot (NYSE:HD)has P&G beat on two important income metrics: dividend growth, and payout coverage. As for growth, the retailer's quarterly checks are up by 150% during the past five years thanks to a long-running housing market rebound and efficient business operations. Compare that to P&G's weak 37% dividend boost during the same period.
Meanwhile, Home Depot isn't at all exposed to the foreign-exchange issues that are ravaging P&G's profits. As a result, the retailer's payout ratio is still just 40% of trailing earnings -- even after doubling its dividend during the past five years. That low percentage, compared to P&G's foreign-currency slammed 103% payout, gives Home Depot plenty of room to hike the dividend in the future. (Management has a stated policy of returning 50% of profits to shareholders through dividends.)
Home Depot is highly dependent on a strengthening, or at least steady, housing market. If the bottom falls out of the industry, as it did during the Great Recession, then income investors would likely see another pause in payout hikes. Home Depot didn't raise its dividend in its 2007, 2008, or 2009 fiscal years, while P&G has an unbroken streak of nearly 60 straight years of dividend increases.
But it says a lot that Home Depot didn't need to cut the dividend despite a historic collapse of its industry. Management has made dividend payments a priority, and surging business results point to more hikes ahead for the retailer.
Bob Ciura: I think Church & Dwight (NYSE:CHD) is a better stock to buy than P&G because it operates in the same industry, but is performing much better this year. In its recently concluded fiscal year, P&G's net revenue declined 5% year over year, to $76.3 billion.
Even excluding currency effects, P&G's organic sales increased just 1% for the year. By comparison, Church & Dwight grew organic revenue last quarter by 5%, and adjusted earnings per share were up 12% year over year.
Church & Dwight holds off-price brands like Arm & Hammer that compete directly with P&G's premium priced products. This focus has led to higher sales, thanks to the many consumers who have scaled down their spending on personal consumer products. As a result, Church & Dwight is taking share from larger rivals like P&G.
P&G offers a higher dividend yield right now of about 3.5% to Church and Dwight's 1.5%. But total return should be an important consideration for investors, too. On that front, there's a lot more to like about Church & Dwight than P&G.
Church & Dwight's last dividend increase was 8%, which was far greater than P&G's 3% dividend increase earlier this year. This is a testament to Church & Dwight's higher growth, which I expect to continue for the foreseeable future.
Tamara Walsh: PepsiCo (NASDAQ:PEP) and Procter & Gamble are both dividend aristocrats, which means they have continually increased their dividend payouts every year for at least 25 years. This tells investors that both companies are committed to putting shareholders first. However, PepsiCo is the better dividend stock to own today for a number of reasons.
First, Pepsi boasts a more reliable payout ratio versus Procter & Gamble today, with a payout of 61% compared to P&G's payout of more than 100%. This metric is important because it tells investors how much of the company's net income is being given back to shareholders in the form of dividends.
Therefore, with a payout at 61% of Pepsi's net income, the soda giant should still have plenty of cash left over to reinvest in its business. P&G's payout is north of 100%, and the company may be stretching itself thin. Meanwhile, a payout of 61% leaves Pepsi ample room to continue increasing its dividend payout in the future.
Other reasons for income investors to own PepsiCo today include the company's impressive ability to generate loads of free cash flow. In 2014, for example, Pepsi produced $10.6 billion in free cash flow excluding certain items. This helped the soda and snack giant return as much as $8.7 billion to shareholders last year through dividends and share buybacks.
Meanwhile, in July, Pepsi increased its dividend more than 7%, to $2.81 per share annually. This marked the company's 43rd straight annual dividend increase in its history. Pepsi expects to return as much as $9 billion to shareholders in the year ahead.