The 'Dividend Aristocrats' add 7 new members

  • By Lawrence C. Strauss,
  • Barron's
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The club is getting bigger.

The S&P 500 (.SPX) Dividend Aristocrats, whose members have increased their dividends for at least 25 straight years, added seven companies this week.

The Aristocrats are considered proxies for well-established companies that have a long history of increasing their dividends every year. Longtime Aristocrats include Exxon Mobil (XOM), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), and Coca-Cola (KO).

The newbies officially became members of the group, which now has 64 members, on Feb. 3. No companies were removed from the group as part of S&P Dow Jones Indices’ annual review of the group’s composition.

The new entrants are: Albemarle (ALB); Amcor (AMCR); Atmos Energy (ATO); Essex Property Trust (ESS); Expeditors International of Washington (EXPD); Ross Stores (ROST); and Realty Income (O), which pays a monthly dividend.

The club is light on tech companies—few of which have been paying dividends for 25 straight years—and no tech plays were added this year. Microsoft (MSFT), for example, began paying a dividend in 2003 and wouldn’t be an eligible Aristocrat until the end of this decade if it maintains its payment.

Here is a quick look at the new entrants:

  • Albemarle, a specialty chemical company, yields 1.7% and its shares recently traded around $87.
  • Amcor yields 4.3%. The company makes packaging for food, beverage, home and personal products, among other markets. Shares recently traded at $11.
  • Atmos Energy, whose shares trade just under $118, yields 2%. It is a regulated utility that distributes natural gas, and it also operates a pipeline and storage business.
  • Ross Stores, a discount apparel retailer with a national footprint, has a yield of 0.9%. That’s well below the S&P 500’s average yield of 1.8%. Shares were recently around $118.
  • Expeditors International of Washington, a shipping and logistics company, yields 1.3%. It recently traded around $74.
  • The other two companies that entered the club—Realty Income and Essex Property Trust—are real-estate investment trusts, or REITs, that must distribute at least 90% of their taxable income to their shareholders every year. Realty Income yields 3.5% and shares trade around $79. Essex Property Trust yields 2.5% and shares were recently trading around $315.
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