Income investors have a lot of dividend-paying companies to choose from, but not just any dividend-paying stock is worth socking away in portfolios. Often, the best dividend-paying companies are those that have catalysts that are sparking revenue and profit growth that can fuel dividend increases in the future.
We asked some of our top Motley Fool contributors to tell us their favorite growth dividend stocks to buy now, and here are the three they picked. Read on to find out if they're right for your portfolio.
Andres Cardenal: Nike (NKE -1.00%) is not a name that typically comes to mind when thinking about the best dividend stocks. This is understandable, because the stock pays a modest dividend yield of only 1.1% at current prices. However, dividend growth can be even more important than yield when it comes to maximizing total returns, and Nike is remarkably well positioned for consistent dividend growth in the years ahead.
Nike is the undisputed leader in sports apparel and shoes on a global scale. The company owns one of the leading brands in the consumer sector, and this generates superior pricing power and above-average profitability for investors. Demand for Nike products looks quite healthy judging by recent financial reports. Constant currency sales increased 14% last quarter, while future orders grew by an even stronger 17% in constant-currency terms
Nike is a truly global business, and international markets are particularly promising for the company. Sales, excluding currency fluctuations, grew 27% in Greater China and 29% in Central and Eastern Europe during the quarter ended in February.
Growing sales and cash flows are being reflected in increasing dividends for investors, Nike has raised its dividends over the last 14 consecutive years, including a generous dividend hike of 14% announced in 2015. The dividend-payout ratio is comfortably low, in the area of 30%, versus earnings forecasts for the coming year, so the company has plenty of room to continue raising dividends in the future.
Matt DiLallo: Since going public in 2012, MPLX's (MPLX 1.75%) distribution has grown by a compound annual rate of 24%. Fueling this strong growth is a combination of drop-down transactions with its parent company Marathon Petroleum (MPC 2.76%), third-party transactions, such as its recently completed acquisition of MarkWest Energy Partners, and organic growth projects. Those three growth engines are still running strong despite the downturn in the energy sector, and are expected to drive 12% to 15% distribution growth for MPLX in 2016, and double-digit growth in 2017.
While the distribution growth rate is slowing, that's partially due to the company's larger size, as well as its decision to cut growth capital spending in light of the energy market downturn. The company is cutting growth capex by 40% this year as it adjusts to the weaker market conditions.
However, while the company is cutting back near-term investments on organic growth, it still has ample opportunities to accelerate growth once conditions start to improve. MPLX estimates that its backlog of midstream organic growth projects alone totals more than $17 billion though the end of the decade.
Beyond its rich organic-growth pipeline, MPLX has a very-compelling acquisition pipeline. In fact, Marathon Petroleum has identified up to $16 billion of assets that could eventually be dropped down to MPLX. Further, given the dislocation in the capital markets, there's growing potential for additional consolidation within the MLP sector, which could open up opportunities for MPLX to make acquisitions.
Bottom line, MPLX has clear visibility to grow its payout by double digits during the next two years. Further, it has a pipeline stocked full of opportunities that could fuel strong distribution growth through the end of the decade. That makes it a pretty compelling income-growth company to consider buying this month.
Todd Campbell: Now that Gilead Sciences (GILD 0.89%) and its hepatitis C competitors have reported their first-quarter results, it may be the perfect time to step up and pick up shares in the biotech Goliath. Investors worry about new competition following the FDA approval of Merck & Co.'s Zepatier in January; but Zepatier's sales only totaled $50 million in Q1, and that shows that, when Gilead Sciences competes on price, it wins.
Admittedly, losing its monopoly pricing power in this megamultibillion indication creates a headwind for management, but with Gilead Sciences reporting 90%-plus hep C market share, and that it raked in hep C sales at an annualized $16 billion clip last quarter, I'm confident cash flow won't crimp the company's plans to return money to investors anytime soon.
In fact, despite the hep C headwinds, Gilead Sciences still grew its top line slightly in the quarter versus last year, and it still generated $3.6 billion in net income last quarter. The company's already sitting on a cash stockpile of $21 billion (and that's after buying back a whopping $8 billion of its own stock in Q1), so its got lots of financial flexibility. Recently, it used some of that flexibility to increase its dividend by 10%.
Overall, Gilead Sciences has new drugs hitting the market (and others in the works) that could move the revenue needle, so I believe dividends will head nicely higher in the coming years.