Dividend investors looking for secure distributions tend to focus on dividend growth streaks. If a company has increased its dividend for a decade or two consecutively, it’s considered to be a good buy.
I prefer a different method. I’m quite okay with a company if it pauses dividend growth for a year or two, like our biggest banks did during the Great Financial Crisis of 2008-09. It’s prudent to conserve cash in situations like these, as it shows that management isn’t a slave to dividend growth investors.
So I focus a little less on a dividend growth streak and more on a company continuing to pay investors through thick and thin.
There are a handful of Canadian companies that have paid dividends for at least 100 consecutive years, which is all an investor can really ask for. Let’s take a look at three of these companies, all stocks I own personally in my portfolio.
Bank of Nova Scotia
Bank of Nova Scotia (TSX:BNS)(NYSE:BNS) was founded in Halifax in 1832. The company soon grew to be a dominant force in the Maritime Provinces before expanding into the Caribbean around the beginning of the 1900s and then expanding into Ontario with acquisitions in 1914 and 1919.
The company now has become Canada’s third-largest bank — growth driven in recent years by its relentless expansion outside of Canada into Latin America. Scotiabank has large operations in nations like Mexico, Peru, Chile, and Colombia.
Amid all of this, the company has consistently paid dividends back to shareholders. In fact, it has paid dividends for around 185 consecutive years.
Despite this fantastic history of dividends, Scotiabank shares are currently yielding 5.1% today, which is one of the highest payouts being offered by the Canadian banking sector. I’m a big believer in the stock and have been recently loading up on more shares for my portfolio.
Bank of Montreal
Canada’s banks are going to dominate a list of ultra-long-term dividend payers. These companies are in a profitable sector backed by being some of the oldest surviving companies in Canada. That’s a good combination.
Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO)(NYSE:BMO) is Canada’s dividend king. It has paid a yearly dividend to shareholders each year since 1829, which gives it a 190-year dividend streak. This is the longest streak in Canada and one of the longest in the whole world.
Most companies don’t survive two centuries, and only a select few thrive as much as Bank of Montreal has.
There’s still a lot to like about BMO shares today. The company is firmly entrenched as a major player here in Canada. It’s also expanding rapidly south of the border, with adjusted earnings from its U.S. operations up 29% versus the same period last year.
Similar to Scotiabank shares, BMO shares have been weak lately as investors are a little bearish on Canadian banking, pushing the yield up to a robust 4.3%.
BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE)(NYSE:BCE) has also paid dividends for well over a century. The company was incorporated in 1880, shortly after Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. It paid a dividend to investors a year later and hasn’t missed one since.
Much has changed at BCE over the last 139 years. Wireline telephone services have been replaced with wireless, which itself has evolved from voice to data and text communication.
The company also has strong wireline internet and television divisions, with the latter posting solid growth while some of its competitors shrink because of former customers cutting the cable cord.
The telecom business is more mature these days, so BCE follows a simple mantra: it pays out virtually all of its free cash flow back to investors in the form of generous dividends. This translates into one of the best yields in Canada; the current payout is 5.2%.
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Fool contributor Nelson Smith owns shares of BANK OF MONTREAL, BANK OF NOVA SCOTIA, and BCE INC. Bank of Nova Scotia is a recommendation of Stock Advisor Canada.