Canadians are using dividend stocks to help them meet their retirement savings goals.
Fortis recently closed its $11.3 billion acquisition of Michigan-based ITC Holdings Corp., the largest independent transmission company in the United States.
The deal originally had the market concerned that Fortis was biting off a bit more than it could chew, but an agreement to sell 19.9% of ITC to Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund helped make the deal more palatable and allowed Fortis to maintain its credit rating.
The ITC acquisition comes shortly after Fortis spent US$4.5 billion for Arizona-based UNS Energy. The integration of UNS went well, so there is good reason to believe the ITC purchase will also deliver positive results.
Fortis now has 60% of its assets located in the United States, giving it a balanced revenue base. The remaining businesses are located in Canada and the Caribbean.
The company has increased the payout every year for more than four decades and plans to raise its dividend by at least 6% per year through 2021. The current distribution provides a yield of 3.7%.
Fortis gets about 94% of its revenue from regulated assets, which means cash flow should be predictable and reliable over the long term.
TD is widely viewed as the most conservative pick among the big Canadian banks.
The company gets most of its revenue from bread-and-butter retail banking operations and is less exposed to wild swings that can occur in capital markets activities.
The company also has limited exposure to the oil and gas sector with less than 1% of the total loan book directly connected to energy companies.
As with Fortis, TD offers strong exposure to the U.S. market. The company actually has more branches south of the border than it does in Canada and continues to invest in the United States.
The latest deal is the US$4 billion purchase of Scottrade Financial Services by TD and its U.S. brokerage partnership, TD Ameritrade. TD’s U.S. banking group will take the Scottrade banking operations and TD Ameritrade will get the brokerage business.
TD boasts a compound annual dividend-growth rate of 12% over the past two decades, and investors should see steady increases to the payout in step with earnings growth. The stock currently yields 3.7%.
Weakness in the Canadian economy and a potential housing bubble have some investors concerned the banks will take a big hit. There could be a rough patch on the way, but TD’s mortgage portfolio is capable of riding out a significant drop in house prices, and the U.S. operations provide a nice hedge against trouble in the home market.
As such, this stock should be a solid investment for the long haul.
Is one a better bet?
Earlier in the year I would have picked Fortis, but the stock has rallied off the initial pullback that occurred when the ITC deal was announced. As a result, I would consider the two stocks to be equal RRSP picks today.
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Fool contributor Andrew Walker has no position in any stocks mentioned.