When it comes to dividend investing, you really can't go wrong with homebuilder Persimmon(LSE: PSN). After a near-death experience in the financial crisis, it became an extremely conservative business, prioritising profit margins, cash generation and a strong balance sheet. Rising home prices have helped the company accomplish these goals, and now it is one of the strongest, cash-rich businesses around.
According to the firm's full-year results for the year to 31 December (published this morning), thanks to an increase in the average selling price of 3.2% to £213,321, revenue for the year grew 9%. The group's underlying profit before tax jumped 25% as its operating profit margin increased to 28.2%, from 24.8% in 2016. More importantly for dividend investors, for 2017 the company experienced an 18% increase in cash generation to £806m which, after capital spending, helped the firm bolster the value of net cash on its balance sheet from £913m (year-end 2016) to £1.3bn.
To ensure that profit growth can continue, the company acquired 17,301 plots of land during the year, more than enough to replace all 16,043 legal home completions booked for 2017.
Shareholders set to benefit
Persimmon's strong capital generation has given management the confidence to accelerate the group's capital return plan.
Under this plan, the company has returned 485p per share to investors since 2012, and now it plans to distribute an extra 125p per share over the next three years, increasing the total value of the cash return by 375p per share to 1,300p before 2020. This is more than double the initial plan to return 620p as set out six years ago.
The board has confirmed today that a final dividend of 110p per share will be paid subject to shareholder approval in July, in respect of the financial year ended 31 December as part of this scheme.
Overall, these targets indicate that over the next few years, Persimmon will return 815p to investors via dividends, which works out at around 33% of its current market value. As management has gradually revised cash distribution targets higher since 2012, I wouldn't rule out further increases before the end of the programme in 2020. That's why I believe Persimmon is one of the best income stocks beginners can buy today.
The safest dividend around?
Another FTSE 100 stock I believe income investors should consider is Kingfisher(LSE: KGF). This might not look like a dividend champion at first glance as it supports a yield of only 3%. However, it is a cash cow and a huge chunk of this cash is being paid out to investors.
At the end of last year, the company announced that it was boosting its £600m stock buyback (unveiled in 2016) by £20m thanks to a better-than-expected trading performance. Of this total, the firm has already returned approximately £450m. There is plenty of scope for further cash distributions too, as the group has a net cash balance of £585m, which is enough to cover its annual £230m dividend outlay for more than two years.
In other words, Kingfisher's dividend yield is not the highest around, but it looks to be one of the strongest. Shares in the company currently trade at a forward P/E of 15.2, which is a little expensive but it is worth paying for quality. Also, management has big plans for growth.
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Rupert Hargreaves owns no share mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. 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.