Stocks to buy

3 Dividend Kings to Buy for Safe Dividend Growth

At a time when inflation remains an issue, geopolitical risks are rising and the threat of recession looms large, insisting on quality, safety and dividends when picking stocks is more important than ever. In this article, we will look at three Dividend Kings. These picks offer solid yields and safe payouts along with very impressive 50+ year track records of growing their dividends.

Indeed, with recession on the horizon, investors are increasingly emphasizing quality, safety and dividends in their portfolio selections. With these Dividend Kings, investors will have access to three stocks that not only have been able to generate long-term dividend growth but also proven to be resilient in the face of adverse economic conditions.

Procter & Gamble (PG)

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Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) is a very popular dividend stock thanks to its remarkable track record of growing its dividend for 66 consecutive years and its popular consumer products brands.

Recently, the company pruned its product portfolio in order to focus on its best brands and product lines in order to maximize profitability and long-term organic growth. Some of these leading core brands are Gillette, Tide, Charmin, Crest, Pampers, Febreze, Head & Shoulders, Bounty and Oral-B. It repurchased stock with the proceeds from selling off brands, unlocking value for shareholders.

Moving forward, the company should be able to drive earnings per share (EPS) growth through a combination of share repurchases, margin expansion (due to a combination of cost cuts, improved economies of scale, and price increases), and revenue growth (due to continued investments in its powerful brands and most successful products). The company may also elect to grow through strategic acquisitions like its recent $4.2 billion purchase of Merck’s global consumer health business.

One of the best things about investing in PG right now is that it is a proven performer during recessions. During the Great Recession, it grew EPS from $3.04 in 2007 to $3.53 in 2010. This is largely because it commands strong competitive positions in product lines that are considered essentials. As a result, customers are very loyal to PG’s brands and prioritize purchasing its products over other, more discretionary spending when hard economic times hit.

Genuine Parts (GPC)

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Genuine Parts (NYSE:GPC) is another great dividend growth stock with an impressive 66-year dividend growth streak. It has the world’s largest auto parts network, with over 10,500 locations across 17 countries. It also employs approximately 53,000 people. The company derives roughly two-thirds of its revenue from its automotive parts business. The other third comes from its revenue from its industrial parts business.

Its automotive parts business is best known for its NAPA brand. Meanwhile, its industrial parts business serves primarily maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) businesses as well as original equipment manufacturer (OEM) customers spanning a wide range of industries such as mining, energy and health care.

Moving forward, we expect the economic environment to boost demand for GPC’s services. This is because when times get tough, customers hold onto their existing cars and equipment for longer. As a result, they will likely be purchasing parts from companies like GPC. This steady performance in the face of recession is reflected in its relatively stable EPS performance during the Great Recession when it saw its EPS go from $2.98 in 2007 to $3 in 2010.

GPC operates in a massive total addressable market of nearly half a trillion dollars’ worth of business. It intends to continue growing EPS at a solid clip in part by consolidating its enormous addressable market via organic market share capture and strategically acquiring smaller competitors. It can then implement its economies of scale and other competitive advantages to unlock synergies from these smaller acquisitions. Another manner in which GPC plans to grow EPS moving forward is via aggressive share repurchases.

Illinois Tool Works (ITW)

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Illinois Tool Works (NYSE:ITW) has grown its dividend for 58 consecutive years. The company has been in business for over a century. Therefore, it has a long and storied history of growth and building a vaunted business network and brand power. Today it operates seven business segments: Automotive, Food Equipment, Test & Measurement, Welding, Polymers & Fluids, Construction Products and Specialty Products.

The company’s EPS growth strategy consists of strong organic growth thanks to its strong brand power, opportunistic bolt-on acquisitions and share repurchases. Over the past decade, the company has reduced its shares outstanding each year. Since 2013, the share count has declined by 30%.

The company also has numerous competitive advantages that help it continuously drive steady profits and EPS growth over time. These include its immense economies of scale, which give it pricing advantages as well as superior resources for investment in research and development and marketing relative to its competitors. Furthermore, it has a massive intellectual property portfolio that includes over 17,000 granted and pending patents.

The company is also constantly pruning its brand and product portfolio according to the “80/20” principle. In other words, it is constantly evaluating the performance of and outlook for its brands and products. Then, it divests the 20% that rank the worst while doubling down on the best 80%. By doing this, it is constantly improving profit margins and organic growth and ensures that it is maximizing returns on invested capital.

While the company is not recession-proof, it has proven to be able to sustain strong profitability during hard economic times. From 2007 to 2010, it saw its EPS move from $3.36 to $3.03. Additionally, it continued to grow its dividend each year through that process. As a result, investors who buy it today should be able to feel pretty confident in the sustainability of ITW’s dividend and dividend growth through a potential recession in the coming years.

On the date of publication, Bob Ciura did not hold (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

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