2 top dividend stocks for shrewd investors


Shares of Clarkson(LSE: CKN) are trading 1.55% higher at 2,684p mid-morning after the company reported a "strong financial performance" in the six months to 30 June and lifted its interim dividend by 4.5%.

The world's leading shipping services group is one of two FTSE 250 stocks I think look good value for investors today. They also offer valuable diversification, because they're both in business sectors that aren't represented in the FTSE 100.

Promising outlook

Clarkson's strong first-half performance saw revenue increase by 12% on the same period last year and a 9% uplift in underlying earnings per share (EPS). This was despite the continuation of "some challenging market conditions."

With £117m cash and no debt at the period end, the company, which has a market cap of £811m, said: "Our solid cash position means that irrespective of market conditions, we are able to invest in the business for future growth, deliver increasing returns to shareholders and take advantage of strategic opportunities as they arise."

Furthermore, the outlook for the second half and into 2018 looks promising, as management noted "very early signs of recovery in some of the major shipping markets are emerging."

Strong dividend record

Ahead of today's numbers, City analysts were forecasting full-year EPS of 111.4p, followed by a 21% increase to 135.2p in 2018. This gives a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 24, falling to 20. The shares look very buyable to me on this rating due to the growth on offer, particularly as I see potential for earnings upgrades in the coming months.

The shipping sector is both cyclical and volatile but it's a measure of the strength of Clarkson's business that it's delivered 14 years of consecutive dividend growth -- so, through the financial crisis as well as the recent challenging market conditions. The record is set to be extended with a forecast dividend of 68p this year, followed by 73p next year, giving a handy yield of 2.5%, rising to 2.7%.

Brands powerhouse

The other FTSE 250 firm that looks a good buy to me today is Britvic(LSE: BVIC). It's the biggest London-listed soft drinks group -- a market cap of £1.95bn at a share price of 740p -- and has a stable of notable brands. These include Robinsons, J2O and Fruit Shoot, which are the UK number ones in the squash, premium juice and kids' soft drink categories respectively.

The company's strong position at home is supplemented by its increasing internationalisation, where a tremendous long-term growth opportunity in massive markets, such as the US and Brazil, is already being grasped.

Britvic is forecast to deliver EPS of 49.1p this year, followed by 51.5p next year, giving a P/E of 15.1, falling to 14.4. Meanwhile, forecast dividends of 25.3p and 26.3p give a yield of 3.4%, rising to 3.6%. I think this looks a highly appealing package for a defensive business with prospects of steadily rising earnings and dividends over the long term.

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G A Chester has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK owns shares of and has recommended Britvic. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.