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10 top dividend-paying stocks

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Dividend stocks have been hot, hot, hot lately. More than 80 percent of the companies in the S&P 500 are now paying dividends. And the dividend payouts for that index are 30 percent higher now than they were at the market’s previous high back in October 2007.

With the Barclays Aggregate Bond Index — the equivalent of the S&P 500 for fixed-income investors — paying out about 3 percent annually and actually declining in value for the first quarter of this year, investors have realized that a stock throwing off even a modest dividend can offer as much income as a bond along with the capital appreciation of equities.

Some stocks, though, are paying a dividend that is anything but modest. With American corporations sitting on more than $1 trillion in cash or cash equivalents but still reluctant to make capital improvements, they’re struggling to find uses for all that money. The answer: massive dividends. These are the stocks currently offering investors the highest payouts:

10. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (KMP)

Annual dividend rate: 5.16


Headquarters: Houston

Business: Pipeline transportation and energy storage limited partnership

Kinder Morgan is a way to play the natural-gas export boom. It’s well-positioned with existing pipelines to Mexico, which has been turning to natural gas as a way to limit its horrible pollution problems. Kinder Morgan’s profit margins are a solid 25 percent — and it now owns one-time pipeline rival El Paso, whose profit margins are closer to 50 percent.

9. BlackRock (BLK)

Annual dividend rate: 6.72


Headquarters: New York City

Business: Investment management

The biggest money manager in the world in terms of assets, BlackRock has benefited from record inflows into ETFs, which it markets under the iShares brand, in the first quarter of 2013. Earnings have been growing at about 25 percent per year over the past five years. BlackRock went public in 1999 at $13.50 a share; it’s now trading at more than $250. 

8. CNOOC Ltd. (CEO)

Annual dividend rate: 7.42 percent


Headquarters: Hong Kong

Business: Oil & gas exploration, primarily around China

CNOOC made 21 new discoveries off the shore of China in 2012; it also bought up Canadian oil firm Nexen in July of that year, and has a working partnership with ConocoPhilips. The Nexen purchase forced CNOOC to cut its dividend by 40 percent, but at the end of March, it announced a special dividend of $4.12, with an ex-dividend date (the latest date at which you can buy the stock and still receive the dividend) of May 28th.

7. Westpac Banking Corp. (WBK)

Annual dividend rate: 8.70


Headquarters: Sydney, Australia

Business: Banking services in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands

Australian banks have recently had the reputation for paying sizable dividends, but Westpac has also been slashing costs, cutting and offshoring jobs for what the CEO recently called “an efficiency dividend.” The stock itself is up nearly 50 percent over the past year.

6. Great Northern Iron Ore Properties (GNI)

Annual dividend rate: 9.00


Headquarters: Saint Paul, Minn.

Business: Trust that owns mining interests in the Mesabi Range in northern Minnesota

Great Northern’s profit margins are now a staggering 77 percent, and that’s actually down from a year ago. One reason this trust is paying out so much right now is that it will cease to exist on April 6, 2015, at which point the value of the shares will go to zero. The wind-down payout looks to be a little more than $8 a share, so it’s important to get as much as you can before then.

5. BP Prudhoe Bay Royalty Trust (BPT)

Dividend rate: 9.26


Headquarters: Austin, Texas

Business: Trust that owns mineral rights in the Prudhoe Bay area of Alaska

Trusts like this and Great Northern are required by law to pay out nearly all their earnings as dividends, which is why the dividend remains so high even though the stock has dropped by about 30 percent in the past year. The reserves of Alaska’s North Slope — the only place BP Prudhoe Bay is operating — are currently expected to last about 12 more years, so this is another one in which time is of the essence.

4. Washington Post (WPO)

Annual dividend rate: 9.80


Headquarters: Washington, D.C.

Business: Operates not just the flagship newspaper but the Kaplan family of testing services

The namesake paper accounts for just 15 percent of the company’s revenues. The real cash cow is Kaplan Test Prep and its associated businesses, which make up 59 percent of the revenues. Roughly 18 percent of the company is owned by Warren Buffett, who generally knows what he’s doing.

3. Apple (AAPL)

Annual dividend rate: 10.60


Headquarters: Cupertino, Calif.

Business: iStuff

Apple has a reported $135 billion in cash on hand. That’s more than the net value of all but about 20 of the companies listed in the S&P 500. It also adds up to about $145 in cash for every outstanding share. With just over a year having passed since Apple’s initial announcement of its dividend, there’s been much speculation that a new hike in the dividend is on its way.

2. Alexander’s (ALX)

Dividend rate: 11.00


Headquarters: Paramus, N.J.

Business: REIT that owns retail and office space in the New York City area

The New York metro area was one of the few places in the country where the real estate market never really sagged too much, so Alexander’s has been well-positioned to stay strong over the past five years. In addition to several shopping centers, the REIT also owns the Bloomberg Building, namesake of the media baron cum mayor. Last December, Alexander’s issued a special dividend of $120.

1. Terra Nitrogen LP (TNH)

Dividend rate: 14.52


Headquarters: Deerfield, Illinois

Business: Limited partnership that makes and sells nitrogen fertilizer products

Terra has profit margins of 41 percent and operating margins of 72 percent. Earnings have been growing at 50 percent a year, and the company has no debt. The share price is up about 150 percent in the past three years. All in all, it’s a great time to buy fertilizer.

For more, see:

The first quarter’s biggest winners

Hot, hot Hewlett-Packard

Taking down the Dow Theory


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