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15-Plus Years of Dividend Growth

Investors are reassured — and companies consider it a point of pride — when executives note an uninterrupted track record for raising dividends. Dividend payments also offer investors a cushion on their investment, increasing the overall returns of the stock. Historically, dividend payments have accounted for more than 40 percentof the S&P 500’s total returns.

In the S&P 500, about 6 percent of companies have raised their dividends for at least 15 consecutive years or more, based on data gathered by CNBC Analytics and Capital IQ. One key indicator for dividends is a comparison of dividend payout per share and free cash flow per share, since dividends are paid from a company’s earnings. The lower the dividend payout-free cash flow ratio, the better, since the company is spending less of its available cash on dividends. This metric is a good indication of whether a dividend strategy has more room to grow.

Listed here are the 15 companies with the smallest free cash flow to dividend payout ratio (or FCF payout ratio). By this metric, companies would have the most stable dividends and are most likely to sustain their payments. Click ahead to see top companies with 15 years or more of consecutive dividend increases.

By Giovanny Moreanoand Paul Toscano
Posted 17 Jan 2012

Photo: Getty Images