Dividend payers deserve a berth in any long-term stock portfolio. But seemingly attractive dividend yields are not always as fetching as they may appear. Let's see which companies in the medical instruments and supplies industry offer the most promising dividends.
Yields and growth rates and payout ratios, oh my!
Before we get to those companies, though, you should understand just whyyou'd want to own dividend payers. These stocks can contribute a huge chunk of growth to your portfolio in good times, and bolster it during market downturns.
As my colleague Matt Koppenheffer has noted: "Between 2000 and 2009, the average dividend-adjusted return on stocks with market caps above $5 billion and a trailing yield of 2.5% or better was a whopping 114%. Compare that to a 19% drop for the S&P 500."
When hunting for promising dividend payers, unsophisticated investors will often just look for the highest yields they can find. While these stocks will indeed pay out the most, the yield figures apply only for the current year. Extremely steep dividend yields can be precarious, and even solid ones are vulnerable to dividend cuts.
When evaluating a company's attractiveness in terms of its dividend, it's important to examine at least three factors:
The current yield
The dividend growth
The payout ratio
If a company has a middling dividend yield, but a history of increasing its payment substantially from year to year, it deserves extra consideration. A $3 dividend can become $7.80 in 10 years, if it grows at 10% annually. (It will top $20 after 20 years.) Thus, a 3% yield today may be more attractive than a 4% one, if the 3% company is rapidly increasing that dividend.
Next, consider the company's payout ratio, which reflects what percentage of income the company is spending on its dividend. In general, the lower the number, the better. A low payout ratio means there's plenty of room for generous dividend increases. It also means that much of the company's income remains in its hands, giving it a lot of flexibility. That money can fund the business's expansion, pay off debt, buy back shares, or even buy other companies. A steep payout ratio reflects little flexibility for the company, less room for dividend growth, and a stronger chance that if the company falls on hard times, it will have to reduce its dividend.
Peering into medical instruments and supplies
Below, I've compiled some of the major dividend-paying players in the medical instruments and supplies industry (and a few smaller outfits), ranked according to their dividend yields:
5-Year Avg. Annual Div. Growth Rate
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Teleflex (NYS: TFX)
Baxter International (NYS: BAX)
Becton Dickinson (NYS: BDX)
Stryker (NYS: SYK)
Mindray Medical (NYS: MR)
C. R. Bard
Source: Motley Fool CAPS. *Past four years.
If you focus on dividend yield alone, you might end up with Teleflex, but it's not necessarily your best bet, as its dividend hasn't been growing very briskly.
Instead, let's focus on the dividend growth rate first, where ATRION and Stryker lead the way. Their growth rates are so steep, though, that they will be hard to maintain for long. However, since their payout ratios aren't too high, that's not an immediate concern.
You may notice, too, that some well-regarded players in the industry, such as Antares Pharma (ASE: AIS) and DexCom (NAS: DXCM) , aren't on the list. That's because smaller, fast-growing companies often prefer to plow any excess cash into further growth, rather than pay it out to shareholders. Both of these companies, for example, aren't even profitable at this point.
As I see it, among the companies above, Baxter International and Becton, Dickinson offer the best combination of dividend traits, sporting some solid income now and a good chance of strong dividend growth in the future. Stryker is worth a look, too -- its yield is low, but it's growing fast.
Of course, as with all stocks, you'll want to look into more than just a company's dividend situation before making a purchase decision. Still, these stocks' compelling dividends make them great places to start your search, particularly if you're excited by the prospects for this industry.
Do your portfolio a favor. Don't ignore the growth you can gain from powerful dividend payers.
To get more ideas for great dividend-paying stocks, read about"13 High-Yielding Stocks to Buy Today."
At the time thisarticle was published Longtime Fool contributorSelena Maranjianholds no position in any company mentioned.Click hereto see her holdings and a short bio.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Becton, Cantel, Stryker, Teleflex, and Covidien. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.
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