BAE Systems plc, Imperial Brands PLC And Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc: The Benchmark For Dividend Safety?

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With dividends toppling across the FTSE 100 like dominoes, I believe now is the time to take a look at three of the 'safest' income stocks on the market.

Blasting higher

Weapons builders like BAE Systems(LSE: BA) have long been a firm favourite for those seeking reliable dividend growth.

Mankind's desire to wage war is one of life's constants. And while pressured Western budgets may have dented sales in previous years, stabilising economic conditions has pushed sales at critical suppliers like BAE Systems higher again more recently.

And I expect orders to keep rising as the US and UK prepare for a plethora of geopolitical hot potatoes. From battling ISIS in Europe and the Middle East to standing up against Chinese, Russian and North Korean expansionist rhetoric, I believe BAE Systems' wide range of products puts it in the box seat to enjoy surging revenues growth.

While a mild earnings dip is anticipated for 2016, the London company's solid long-term outlook is expected to underpin dividends of 21.5p and 22.1p for 2016 and 2017, respectively, yielding 4.2% and 4.3%.

And investors should take heart from chunky dividend coverage of 1.8 times for this year and 1.9 times for 2017, within a whisker of the widely-regarded safety benchmark of 2 times.

Light up your dividend flows

The reliable nature of tobacco demand has also made Imperial Brands(LSE: IMB) a winner with dividend chasers for many years.

Of course, the public's rapidly-changing attitudes towards smoking means that this quality isn't as robust as it once was. But I have no fears over the sales outlook for Imperial Tobacco as its so-called 'Growth Brands' like Davidoff and West continue to grab market share. Indeed, volumes of these cartons galloped 7.3% higher in 2015.

The City expects Imperial Brands' strong earnings outlook to drive the dividend to 155.4p per share for the year to September 2016, yielding an impressive 4.2%. And the yield marches to 4.6% for next year thanks to a predicted 170.7p payment.

While dividend coverage of 1.5 times through to the close of 2017 may not be the most secure, I believe investors should place confidence in the firm's improving cash generation to keep dividends marching onwards.

A diversified darling

I also believe the broad range of Reckitt Benckiser's(LSE: RB) operations should cement the stock's reputation as a reliable dividend lifter well into the future.

From Nurofen pain relievers to Finish dishwasher detergent and French's mustard, Reckitt Benckiser boasts a variety of labels that enjoy terrific consumer loyalty, a quality that enables it to raise prices regardless of the broader economic climate. Unsurprisingly Reckitt Benckiser is anticipated to print solid earnings growth until the close of next year at least.

It's certainly true that Reckitt Benckiser may not offer the most lucrative dividends to stock pickers, however. Indeed, projected payouts of 141.1p and 152p per share for 2016 and 2017, respectively, create handy-if-unspectacular yields of 2.1% and 2.3%.

But many stock pickers will be happy to sacrifice gigantic yields in the near term for that little bit of extra security -- the business sports dividend coverage bang on the safety benchmark of 2 times. Besides, I fully expect dividends to pick up pace in the coming years as Reckitt Benckiser's pan-global presence delivers stunning sales growth.

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Royston Wild has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Reckitt Benckiser. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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