Kimberly-Clark Dividend Hike Signals Lower Rival Dividend Hikes in 2014

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Kimberly-Clark Corp. (NYSE: KMB) received almost no coverage for the dividend hike that was announced on Tuesday. For this consumer products giant to raise its dividend by almost 4% does not sound like huge news on the surface. While we would love to suggest that a theme of ongoing dividend hikes will continue, the reality is that the ongoing dividend hikes from defensive consumer products stocks may be slowing down significantly in 2014.

Even if this is the 42nd straight year with dividend hikes, the expected earnings growth in 2014 comes on very low expected sales growth. We compared this year’s hike from Kimberly-Clark to that of P&G and Clorox – and if the theme is consistent then dividend investors should start assuming that they are going to get lower relative dividend hikes from the consumer products sector in 2014.

The new Kimberly-Clark dividend hike will take its quarterly dividend up to $0.84 from $0.81 per share. On annualized basis of $3.36 per share, this will generate a 3.05% yield based upon the $110.15 share price. Kimberly-Clark declared the dividend payable on April 2, 2014 to holders of record on March 7, 2014. Analysts have a consensus price target of $108 on this stock.

Our one word of caution is that the dividend hike from Kimberly-Clark was by 9.5% in 2013, and was announced on February 21 of 2013. Earnings per share growth for 2014 is expected to be 6% versus only about 1.7% expected sales growth.

The company’s quote also signaled that this increase will help it maintain an appropriate payout taking into account the planned spin-off of the company’s health care business later this year.

The Procter & Gamble Company (NYSE: PG) yields close to 3.1% currently. With shares close to $78, its is down almost 10% from its 52-week high of $85.82. P&G’s consensus analyst price target is up at $87.61. Its $40.6015 per quarter dividend is due for a hike soon as well as this last January payment was its fourth consecutive quarter of payments at that rate. P&G did not deliver its dividend hike announcement until April of last year, but that hike was 7%. P&G’s earnings per share growth is expected to be about 4% in 2014, on sales growth of only 1.1%.

The Clorox Company (NYSE: CLX) leads the pack with close to a 3.3% yield. Its first dividend hike may not come for a few more months. Its 2013 dividend hike was announced on may 13 of 2013, and that hike was by almost 11%. With shares are close to $87, the consensus analyst price target is $88.50. Clorox is expected to have earnings per share growth of about 3.7% in 2014, on revenue growth of just under 2%.