Boeing Co. (NYSE:BA) is an iconic American name in the aerospace industry. Add in a yield of around 3.4% and a successful history of serving the consumer aviation and military industries, and there's a lot to like here. But it's just one company and it may not be the best option for income today. Here are three other dividend payers to consider if you are looking at Boeing, a couple of which you may not have thought of.
United Technologies (NYSE:RTX) is the first alternative to Boeing you should take a look at. Although its dividend yield is only 2.6%, a bit below that of Boeing, it has one big thing going for it: diversification. Boeing makes planes, it's pretty much the company's bread and butter -- any problems there, and Boeing is going to suffer. United Technologies gets about 50% of its revenues by making parts for planes, such as jet engines, and the rest comes from climate-control equipment and elevators.
Why does this matter? First, if you buy Boeing you are 100% exposed to a single aviation company. United Technologies sells its engines and parts to multiple plane makers and on the aftermarket. That provides more diversification should Boeing run into production problems. And then there are the other parts of the business that provide a counterbalance to aviation.
While elevators and heating and cooling equipment may not be as exciting as zooming through the air in a plane, they provide a solid base of business. To provide some contrast, planes are huge purchases that only a small number of companies make. Elevators and heating go into buildings around the world, large and small, and compared to planes they are relatively cheap and in most cases necessities. United Technologies expects these two businesses to provide a stable base of around 4% to 5% annualized growth through the end of the decade. That growth won't disappear if there's an aviation downturn.
Then there's one more factoid to keep in mind. Boeing has increased its dividend each year for five years. United Technologies has increased its distribution annually for over 20 years. Boeing's historical growth rate is higher (around 13% annualized), but it's hard to complain about United Technologies' nearly 10% annualized dividend growth rate over the same span. And remember that United Technologies has given you a "pay raise" every year, while Boeing has, at times, gone years without any dividend increase at all. Add in the benefits of diversification, and despite a lower yield, United Technologies is a company you should be considering as an alternative to Boeing.
That brings up two other options, Eaton Corp. (NYSE:ETN) and Emerson Electric (NYSE:EMR). Neither has the aviation exposure of Boeing or United Technologies, but if you're looking for a good price on an industry stalwart, does that matter? Indeed, Eaton and Emerson are giants in the industrial space and they have lagged well behind Boeing when it comes to the stock market. To put it simply, this pair are out of favor right now, and that could be your buying opportunity.
Eaton, which has a small and growing aviation business, is focused on power management, with operations in the electric, hydraulic, auto, and, yes, aviation spaces. Its yield is around 3.7%, giving it an edge over the aircraft maker on the yield front. Like Boeing, however, it paused the dividend during the 2007-to-2009 recession, so it, too, only has five years of annual increases under its belt.
And while Eaton is expecting 2016 to be a bad year for organic growth (down as much as 4%), even worse than 2015 was (organic growth fell 2%), Eaton's diversified business model should allow it to remain well in the black. It's calling for operating earnings of $4.15 to $4.45 a share this year -- in a bad year. For reference, operating earnings were just shy of $4.25 last year. So you get to collect a nice dividend yield while waiting for the industrial sector to tick higher again.
Emerson's yield is around 3.5%, a touch higher than Boeing offers. Emerson's business spans the automation, process management, network power, climate control, and commercial and residential products segments. Notice that aviation isn't on that list. That makes this a tougher sell if you're looking for aviation exposure, but the yield and a nearly 60-year history of annual dividend increases might be enough to entice you to consider ditching Boeing. Imagine, 60 years of annual "pay raises" in good years and bad!
Now, to be fair, Emerson is expecting organic sales to fall as much as 5% this year. And it's getting ready to jettison its network power business, which it only recently started to build. But the current yield is roughly 10% above its average over the past five years. If you have to have some aviation exposure, look elsewhere. But if you're looking for an industrial company with a good yield, trading at what appears to be a discount to historical levels, and has a long (really long) history of rewarding investors with dividend hikes, Emerson has to be considered.
So, should you forget Boeing? No. It's a good aviation company and deserves your consideration. However, you shouldn't focus exclusively on Boeing, either. There are other companies with varying exposure to aviation that are worth looking at, such as United Technologies and Eaton Corp. And there are companies without any exposure, such as Emerson, but with a higher yield and a longer history of annual dividend increases. You'd be remiss if you didn't look at this trio before pulling the trigger on Boeing.