European Dividend Aristocrats: 41 Top-Flight International Dividend Stocks
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European Dividend Aristocrats: 41 Top-Flight International Dividend Stocks

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America’s stock market ran wild in 2019, putting up a far-above-average year despite trade skirmishes, global economic sluggishness and political tumult. That’s great for those already invested in stocks, but anyone with new money to spend is left looking at a lot of overvalued equities with severely depressed yields.

One solution? Peer over the Atlantic and seek out European Dividend Aristocrats.

You’re certainly familiar with the S&P Dividend Aristocrats – 57 dividend stocks that have raised their payouts for 25 or more years. Well, the European Dividend Aristocrats are of a similar vein. To qualify as European payout royalty, a company needs to show only 10 or more years of stable or increasing dividends. But these companies also provide investors with diversification and much more reasonable valuation than many of their American brethren.

Another perk: European Dividend Aristocrats yield more – substantially more. As of this writing, they collectively yield 3.2%, versus 1.9% for the S&P Dividend Aristocrats.

Read on to explore all 41 European Dividend Aristocrats.

SEE ALSO: The 20 Best Stocks to Buy for 2020

Data is as of Dec. 12. Stocks were members of the S&P Europe 350 Dividend Aristocrat index as of Dec. 1, 2019. Companies listed in alphabetical order. Yields represent the trailing 12-month yield, which is a standard measure for international stocks. Dividends on some international stocks may be taxed at a higher rate; however, the IRS offers a foreign tax credit that investors can use to offset taxes collected by foreign governments.

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European Dividend Aristocrats: 41 Top-Flight International Dividend Stocks | Slide 2 of 42

Alcon

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Market value: $27.5 billion

Dividend yield: N/A*

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 22**

Don’t let the lack of yield scare you. Alcon (ALC, $56.33), a recent spinoff of Novartis (NVS), will start its own cycle of dividend payments in 2020.

Alcon is the world leader in eye-care devices with complementary businesses in surgical and vision care. The Geneva, Switzerland-based company generated more than $7 billion last year from sales made in over 140 countries. And it's flying on its own now, after parent Novartis spun the company off in April.

Eye care is a $23 billion industry – one forecast to grow 4% annually as a result of an aging population, a rising middle class in developing markets, increasing computer screen time and improved treatment options. Alcon, which already is a dominant player in eye care, has more than 100 active products in its pipeline to drive future growth. It also has invested in expanding its manufacturing capabilities with a new contact lens manufacturing platform that reduces costs and increases output by 40%.

During the first six months of 2019, Alcon's sales grew 5% on a constant-currency basis, but core earnings per share (EPS) dipped 11% because of less favorable foreign exchange rates. Still, Alcon expects sales growth to accelerate next year from new product launches. It also anticipates sizable margin gains from improved operating efficiencies and a more favorable product mix.

* Alcon has not yet paid a cash dividend since being spun off from Novartis. Its first payout, which will be based on 10% of 2019 earnings, is expected in 2020.

** Alcon shares its parent's track record of 22 consecutive years of uninterrupted dividend growth.

SEE ALSO: Every Warren Buffett Stock Ranked: The Berkshire Hathaway Portfolio

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European Dividend Aristocrats: 41 Top-Flight International Dividend Stocks | Slide 3 of 42

Ashtead Group

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Market value: $14.1 billion

Dividend yield: 1.6%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 15

U.K.-based Ashtead Group (ASHTY, $123.66) is a leading international equipment rental company with major operations in North America. The company rents out construction and industrial equipment to customers for use in building projects, entertainment and live events, facilities maintenance and emergency response.

Ashtead Group’s Sunbelt US operation is the second largest equipment-rental business in America, with 773 locations, and it accounts for 85% of revenues. Sunbelt also has 67 locations in Canada, accounting for 4% of Canada’s market share – and an equal amount of Ashtead revenues. The remaining sales are generated by A-Plant: the U.K.’s largest equipment-rental business, with 196 rental locations.

In fiscal 2019, equipment-rental revenues grew 18% year-over-year and earnings per share leapt 33%. That’s thanks in large part to Sunbelt US, whose sales increased by 19%; Sunbelt Canada’s revenues popped 55% sales gains.

Ashtead Group is expanding through both greenfield development and bolt-on acquisitions. The company closed 24 acquisitions last year, mainly in the U.S. and Canada, and also expanded its specialty operations.

ASHTY shares have had a remarkable 2019, shooting 47% higher versus just 16% for the iShares MSCI United Kingdom ETF (EWU). The company’s most recent dividend hike was a 10% bump for its 2020 half-year dividend. (Like many European companies, Ashtead Group pays twice per fiscal year – a smaller interim dividend and a larger final payout.)

SEE ALSO: The 30 Best Mutual Funds in 401(k) Retirement Plans

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European Dividend Aristocrats: 41 Top-Flight International Dividend Stocks | Slide 4 of 42

Associated British Foods

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Market value: $25.4 billion

Dividend yield: 1.8%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 19

Associated British Foods (ASBFY, $32.05) is a diversified global food, ingredients and retail group with operations across 52 countries.

ABF operates in five business segments: sugar, agriculture, retail, grocery and ingredients. Its AB Sugar business is a world leader in sugar production, with capacity of 4 million metric tons annually. Meanwhile, its grocery businesses include familiar brands such as Mazola corn oil, Karo corn syrup, Twinings tea and Truvia sweetener.

Adjusted EPS grew 2% year-over-year in fiscal 2019, on sales that improved by 1%. While it’s lean growth, it’s growth – better than its 2018 step back.

Four of the company’s five businesses recorded sales growth in 2019, with Sugar declining thanks in part to deregulation of the European Union market. Adjusted operating profit growth was driven by grocery and retail. The latter operates under the Primark banner – one of Europe’s largest clothing retailers, with 373 stores in 11 countries. It also has a small U.S. presence.

Associated British Foods’ dividend has grown by 37% between 2015 and 2019, though its most recent hike was a mere 3% uptick. Nonetheless, it also marked the 19th consecutive year of payout growth.

SEE ALSO: The 25 Best Canadian Dividend Stocks for U.S. Investors

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BAE Systems

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Market value: $24.3 billion

Dividend yield: 3.8%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 15

BAE Systems (BAESY, $30.32) is the U.K.’s largest defense contractor and a major weapons supplier to the U.S. military, which represents more than 40% of its annual sales. BAE System’s primary business line is military aircraft, but the company also has sizable operations in maritime vessels, military land vehicles and cyber-intelligence.

Revenues rose nearly 7% in the first half of 2019 and EPS improved 11% as a result of ramp-ups in production programs for F-35 aircraft electronic warfare systems, Typhoon and Hawk jet fighters, Dreadnought carriers for the U.K.’s Royal Navy and Amphibious Combat Vehicles for the U.S. Marines. The company expanded into an adjacent market by acquiring Riptide Autonomous Solutions, a developer of unmanned underwater vehicles.

Recent contracts awarded to BAE Systems include $2.7 billion from the U.S. Navy for advanced precision weapon systems, $437 million from the U.S. Army to provide open source support for Army Intelligence and a $269 million extension for production of Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

BAE Systems pays dividends semiannually and has increased payments 15 years in a row, including a 2% dividend hike last year. In July, the company raised its interim dividend by 4.4%.

SEE ALSO: 14 High-Yield Dividend Stocks to Buy for the 4% Rule

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British American Tobacco

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Market value: $90.4 billion

Dividend yield: 6.6%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 21

British American Tobacco (BTI, $39.40) is the No. 2 cigarette maker in the world by sales, behind Philip Morris International (PM). The company operates in 180 countries and has market leading position in more than 50 countries. Cigarette sales are largely driven by five key brands: Dunhill, Kent, Lucky Strike, Pall Mall and Rothmans. BTI also added popular U.S. brands such as Newport, Camel and Natural American Spirit through the 2017 acquisition of Reynolds American.

Cigarette sales are declining, and tobacco companies are relying on new product categories such as e-cigarettes and oral tobacco to generate growth. British American Tobacco owns two market-leading e-cigarette brands (Vype and Vuse) and several popular oral tobacco brands (Epok, Lyft and Velo). The company expects new product categories to contribute more than $6 billion of annual sales by 2024.

To that end, BTI has been streamlining operations to become more agile and free up cash flow that can be invested in new products. The company recently announced it would cut 2,300 jobs, reduce management layers and consolidate into fewer but bigger divisions.

Revenues and EPS each rose 5% in the first half of 2019 as a result of 63% growth in vaping product sales and 274% revenue growth in oral tobacco products. For the full year, British American Tobacco is guiding for 3% to 5% sales growth, 5% to 7% profit growth and high-single-digit EPS growth.

This European Dividend Aristocrat switched from semiannual to quarterly dividends in 2018. It increased its quarterly payout by 4% in 2019, notching its 21st consecutive annual increase.

SEE ALSO: 20 Best Retirement Stocks to Buy in 2020

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Bunzl

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Market value: $9.4 billion

Dividend yield: 2.3%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 26

British firm Bunzl (BZLFY, $27.79) is an international distributor of packaging and cleaning products, safety equipment, and health-care consumable products. Its principal customers are food processors, restaurants, grocery stores, industrial companies, facilities management businesses, retail chains and health-care facilities. In short, customers rely on Bunzl to reduce their procurement costs and working capital requirements.

While Bunzl is a global operator, roughly 60% of sales come from North America. Much of that international reach has come from mergers & acquisitions (M&A), which have also been a primary driver of corporate growth. Since 2004, Bunzl has closed 157 acquisitions – yes, you read that right – expanding its reach from 12 to 31 countries. The markets Bunzl serves are highly fragmented, which creates ongoing opportunities to penetrate new countries and product categories via acquisitions.

Bunzl has been a long-term growth engine, delivering 10% average annual sales growth and 11% adjusted EPS expansion over the past 15 years. It also has improved its semiannual dividend for 26 years in a row.

SEE ALSO: 10 Dividend Aristocrats Expected to Deliver Big Gains in 2020

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European Dividend Aristocrats: 41 Top-Flight International Dividend Stocks | Slide 8 of 42

Burberry Group

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Market value: $11.3 billion

Dividend yield: 1.9%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 10

England’s Burberry Group (BURBY, $27.71) is a global retailer of luxury clothing and leather accessories, known worldwide for its iconic Burberry plaid. The company operates 431 owned stores and 44 franchised stores across 44 countries. The largest chunk of Burberry Group’s sales (41%) are generated from its stores in Asia Pacific, followed by Europe-Middle East-India-Africa (36%) and the America (23%).

Two years ago, the company began implementing a multiyear plan to re-energize its brand, attract more millennial and Generation Z shoppers and cut costs. Burberry Group recruited one of France’s top fashion designers to create a new clothing collection and enhance its brand. The new clothing collection fueled double-digit sales growth for the company’s apparel business during the June quarter, with new designs representing 50% of product offerings. Burberry Group also benefitted from brisk sales in China, which generated high-single-digit growth for its Asian stores.

The company is on track to modernize 80 flagship stores in major cities by 2020 and already has completed upgrades to 23 stores. It also is shedding noncore assets and plans to close 38 underperforming stores. To solidify its perception as a luxury brand, Burberry Group is reducing space in mid-tier U.S. department stores and phasing out non-luxury distribution outlets.

Burberry Group began paying dividends in 2007 and has grown dividends for 10 years in a row. The full-year payout increased 3% in 2019, a slowdown from and 6% in 2018.

SEE ALSO: The Kiplinger Dividend 15: Our Favorite Dividend-Paying Stocks

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Coloplast

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Market value: $24.6 billion

Dividend yield: 2.2%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 23

Denmark’s Coloplast (CLPBY, $11.59) is the worldwide leader in ostomy and incontinence products. They’re not pretty markets, but they are growing faster than the overall medical market. The company also has top-five positions in wound care and interventional urology. Coloplast generates 60% of sales from Europe, 23% from other developed countries and 17% from emerging markets.

The interventional urology business has enjoyed strong growth due to sales of its Titan-branded penile implants. Coloplast recently considered selling this business after the FDA ordered it and chief rival Boston Scientific (BSX) to stop selling surgical mesh for transvaginal repair, which have been the subject of mounting lawsuits. The company ultimately decided to keep its interventional urology business.

Coloplast delivered 9% sales and operating-profit growth in fiscal 2019, but one-time litigation charges caused EPS to remain flat year-over-year. Free cash flow per share improved 10%, and the company rewarded investors with a 6% dividend hike. That made for Coloplast’s 23rd consecutive dividend increase – fairly long among European Dividend Aristocrats.

Coloplast expects new products to power 7% to 8% sales gains next year and is investing in new technologies such as a novel catheter platform in incontinence care to provide longer-term growth.

SEE ALSO: The 13 Best Health-Care Stocks to Buy for 2020

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Compass Group

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Market value: $38.2 billion

Dividend yield: 2.1%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 18

U.K.-based Compass Group (CMPGY, $24.08) is a global leader in food services with operations in 45 countries and an on-site presence at more than 55,000 client locations. The company serves more than 5.5 billion meals annually to a customer mix of 38% business and manufacturing, 23% health care and seniors, 20% education, 12% sports and leisure and 7% defense and offshore.

North America is the company’s primary market, accounting for 62% of revenues. Europe contributes 24% of sales, and the rest of the world accounts for 14%.

Compass Group provides on-site meal services to big-name clients that include Google, Microsoft (MSFT), Intel (INTC), Boeing (BA) and dozens of other Fortune 500 companies. The company’s preferred growth strategy is organic, but it’s not afraid to make acquisitions when it can add new capabilities or scale and get a return on investment within two years.

Its fiscal 2019 revenues grew 8.8% year-over-year, including 6.4% organic sales growth that beat its expectations for the year. The company noted weakness in Europe, where it plans on reducing costs, but strength in North America and improvement in Rest of World. EPS improved by 6% year-over-year, bolstering its free cash flow by 9.3%.

That naturally flowed down to its semiannual dividend, which it hiked by 6.1% to mark its 18th consecutive increase.

SEE ALSO: 20 Large-Cap Dividend Stocks With More Cash Than Debt

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Croda International

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Market value: $8.5 billion

Dividend yield: 1.7%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 18

Britain’s Croda International (COIHY, $32.81) produces high-performance specialty chemicals that are used in food manufacturing, personal-care products, life sciences, performance technologies and industrial chemical applications. The company’s two largest businesses – personal-care products and performance technologies – together represent two-thirds of sales.

Europe and the Middle East account for the majority of Croda International’s sales, but the company also has an expanding presence in North America, which contributed 30% of revenues last year.

New and protected products have been a catalyst for Croda’s recent growth. Sales of new products have risen six years in a row, and at twice the rate of the overall portfolio. In the personal-care segment, Croda International is expanding its offerings in sun protection, anti-aging and hair curling and straightening.

During the first half of 2019, the company’s sales increased 2%, but EPS declined 2% as a result of rising interest expense. Sales of personal-care products were negatively impacted by the U.S.-China trade dispute, and sales in the performance technologies business slowed due to softer end markets in automotive and polymers.

Still, reduced capital spending allowed Croda to deliver 50% higher free cash flow, and the company anticipates a stronger second half as a result of additional production capacity coming online, as well as new product launches.

COIHY International has increased its dividend every year since 2001. Dividends are paid semiannually, and the company occasionally pays a special dividend to boot. Excluding those special payouts, the company’s 2018 full-year dividend improved by 7%, and it increased the interim dividend by 4% in August.

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Diageo

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Market value: $97.8 billion

Dividend yield: 2.2%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 21

U.K. firm Diageo (DEO, $160.70) is a global alcoholic beverage company with sales in more than 180 countries. The company owns many top-selling liquor including Johnnie Walker whisky, Crown Royal, Captain Morgan rum, Smirnoff vodka, Tanqueray and Gordons gin, Bailey’s liqueur and Guinness beer.

In August, Diageo ventured into the non-alcoholic beverage segment by acquiring a stake in Seedlip, the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirits brand. Seedlip beverages are found in more than 7,500 bars, restaurants and hotels in 25 countries. The company also expanded its presence in India by increasing its stake in United Spirits Limited, India’s largest alcoholic beverages company by volume and the second largest spirits company globally.

Diageo aims to accelerate the growth of its higher-margin premium brands in its portfolio, and it’s doing so by trimming noncore brands. It recently shed 19 such brands, including Seagram’s VO Canadian whisky and Goldschlager schnapps. The company is also building its business in China by partnering with a local distiller to launch a new whisky brand in the Chinese market.

Diageo targets mid-single-digit annual growth in organic sales. Its 2019 sales grew 6.1%, just above the range, and adjusted EPS jumped by a little more than 10%. Next year, Diageo anticipates 5% organic sales growth and 6% operating profit improvement.

Dividends, paid semiannually, have been issued consistently since 1998, and it's among the European Dividend Aristocrats that have grown payouts for more than two decades. The company also approved a three-year, $5.8 billion stock buyback program in July.

SEE ALSO: The 25 Best Mutual Funds of All Time

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Enagas

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Market value: $5.9 billion

Dividend yield: 7.0%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 17

Spain’s principal natural gas carrier, Enagas (ENGGY, $12.39), delivers natural gas to eight European countries via a 10,000-kilometer pipeline network. And it’s benefiting from the highest energy demand in that country in a decade, which is up nearly 17% from just a year earlier. Spain’s demand for natural gas used in power generation rose a whopping 99% during the first nine months of 2019 as a result of a strong economy, as well as natural gas replacing coal as a fuel source.

During the first nine months of 2019, the company’s operating profits rose 5%, EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) improved 7%, and funds from operations grew 12%.

Enagas is diversifying its business outside the EU by acquiring a stake in Tallgrass Energy LP (TGE), a natural gas distributor that operates three interstate pipelines across the U.S.. In addition, the company has a major stake in the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), which will carry natural gas supplies to Europe from the Caspian Sea. The TAP is 90% complete; commercial operations are scheduled to begin in 2020. Enagas began testing pipeline segments in Greece and Albania during the fourth quarter.

The Dividend Aristocrat grew its payout by 5% in 2019 to reach 17 consecutive years of income expansion.

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EssilorLuxottica

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Market value: $67.5 billion

Dividend yield: 1.5%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 26

French/Italian eyewear giant EssilorLuxottica (ESLOY, $77.35) is an optical giant – the result of a 2018 merger between Essilor (Varilux, Transitions and Foster Grant) and Luxottica (Ray-Ban and Oakley frames, as well as Sunglass Hut and LensCrafter retail franchises).

It’s gotten even bigger since then. In July 2019, the company agreed to purchase Dutch optical group Grandvision for up to $8 billion in cash. The deal will give the company 5,300 eyewear stores across Europe and a global network of more than 7,000 retail shops.

EssilorLuxottica improved revenues by 8.4% during the first nine months of 2019. Sales in faster-growing emerging markets – which include China, India, Latin America and Eastern Europe – rose 10%.

The company’s cost-containment measures are expected to deliver big savings over the next three years by creating a single supply chain and consolidating its prescription laboratories network. In August, EssilorLuxottica expanded its production capacity by acquiring the world’s leading optical glass lens manufacturer (Barberini) and an Australian ophthalmic instrument maker (Optimed).

A strong catalyst for future growth is the company’s recently renewal of its exclusive licensing agreement with Chanel to develop, manufacture and distribute sunglasses and prescription eyeglasses for the brand over the next eight years.

EssilorLuxottica pays dividends annually and has grown its cash distributions for more than a quarter-century.

SEE ALSO: The 7 Best Bond Funds for Retirement Savers in 2020

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Flutter Entertainment

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Market value: $9.1 billion

Dividend yield: 2.1%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 19

Flutter Entertainment (PDYPY, $58.45) was created through the merger of two leading U.K. bookmaker: Paddy Power and Betfair. Headquartered in Dublin, the company is a global sports betting, gaming and entertainment provider. Flutter Entertainment has 6 million active customers across 100 countries, and it handles 3 billion online transactions annually as well as wagers made through 620 retail locations.

In August, the company’s FanDuel Group division signed a deal with Major League Baseball that gives it access to MLB data and logos, online sports betting products and retail sportsbooks locations. Earlier this year, Flutter Entertainment acquired a 51% stake in Adjarabet, Eastern Europe’s market leader in online gaming, and expects to buy the remaining stake by 2022. The Georgian gaming market served by Adjarabet grew 40% annually between 2016 and 2018.

During the first half of 2019, the company’s revenues grew 18% thanks to a strong performance from the FanDuel Group business and robust customer growth in Australia. Excluding one-time charges, adjusted EBITDA grew 15% year-over-year, but actual earnings per share declined because of acquisition-related costs. Still, Flutter announced a 10% bump in revenues during the September quarter, and it increased its full-year sales guidance for its U.S. business.

Flutter Entertainment will roughly double in size soon, too, as it announced in October that it would buy Canada’s The Stars Group – the world’s largest publicly traded sportsbook business and owner of PokerStars. The combined business would have 13 million customers in 100 countries, revenues of $4.7 billion and own three of the top seven U.K. online sports betting brands.

Flutter Entertainment, through its various companies, has paid increasing dividends for nearly two decades. The rate of growth has slowed over the past couple years, however, amid the M&A spree.

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Fresenius Medical Care

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Market value: $21.9 billion

Dividend yield: 1.8%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 22

Germany’s Fresenius Medical Care (FMS, $36.40) provides dialysis services to some 340,000 patients worldwide through its network of nearly 4,000 dialysis clinics. The company also sells dialysis-related products and services to around 3.4 million patients worldwide. Much of the company’s growth has come from acquisitions, which have recently included Sparsh Nephrocare, XENiOS, Cura Group, and NxStage Medical.

North America represents 70% of the company’s revenues. Expansion in the company’s home dialysis operations in the U.S. helped generate 5% revenue growth in the first nine months of 2019 and 8% adjusted basic EPS gains. Fresenius Medical Care also introduced a lower-priced dialysis machine in China that is specifically designed for emerging markets.

New products such as that dialysis machine should support continued organic sales growth for Fresenius Medical Care. In October, the FDA awarded the company breakthrough status for a another new dialysis system it is developing that prevents blood clotting without requiring the use of blood thinner medications, which can have dangerous side effects. Fresenius Medical Care also was granted breakthrough status earlier in 2019 for computer-assisted software it is developing that improves fluid management during dialysis.

FMS has paid dividends for more than two decades.

SEE ALSO: 12 Dividend Stocks to Build a Monthly Income Calendar

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Fresenius SE

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Market value: $31.2 billion

Dividend yield: 1.6%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 26

Germany’s Fresenius SE (FSNUY, $14.02) is a global leader in healthcare products and services. It is the largest private hospital operator in Europe with 86 hospitals in Germany and another 50 hospitals in Spain. It also provides project development, construction and maintenance services for hospital groups. And it benefits from its 31% stake in the aforementioned Fresenius Medical Care.

The company has grown organically and through bolt-on acquisitions. Its hospital supply business is expanding geographically and launching new products such as biosimilar drugs and the construction and project development business is capitalizing on fresh demand for its services in emerging markets.

During the first half of 2019, the company’s revenues rose 6% and all four business groups contributed growth. However, net earnings remained flat due to the impact of a regulatory change and the sale of a business. Going forward and excluding acquisitions, Fresenius SE aims to deliver 4% to 7% annual sales growth and 5% to 9% annual earnings growth.

Fresenius SE is one of the longest-tenured European Dividend Aristocrats, delivering 26 consecutive years of dividend growth. Total shareholder returns over the past decade have averaged 15% annually.

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Groupe Bruxelles Lambert

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Market value: $13.7 billion

Dividend yield: 3.9%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 16

Belgian holding company Groupe Bruxelles Lambert (GBLBY, $8.75) is one of Europe’s largest investment firms, with sizable stakes in industry-leading companies such as Adidas (ADDYY), Total SA (TOT) and Pernod Ricard (PDRDY). The company also owns Sienna Group, which invests across many of the world’s leading fund managers. The value of its investment portfolio is roughly $21 billion.

Through the first nine months of 2019, the firm’s net asset value grew 19% year-over-year and cash earnings rose at an impressive 47% rate. This financial performance is primarily thanks to Groupe Bruxelles Lambert’s successful harvesting of sale proceeds from high-yielding assets in the energy and utilities sectors.

During the September quarter, the company signed an agreement to acquire Webhelp Group, which specializes in business process outsourcing, for its portfolio. Groupe Bruxelles Lambert plans to accelerate Webhelp Group’s organic growth and transition it from a European leader to a global player. Sienna Group continued to beef up its portfolio of alternative assets with investments in Marcho Partners LP, a technology and innovation fund, and co-investments with the Carlyle Group (TCGP) in Spanish oil and gas firm Cepsa.

The company has improved its payout for 16 consecutive years, while delivering 11.5% annualized total shareholder return from 2012-19, beating an 8.4% return for the Stoxx Europe 50 during the same time period.

SEE ALSO: The 10 Best Value Stocks to Buy for 2020

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Halma

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Market value: $10.5 billion

Dividend yield: 0.6%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 40

U.K.-based Halma (HLMAF, $27.60) invests in technology businesses that address health, safety and the environment. The company’s Process Safety segment has tools for detecting hazardous gas leaks and monitoring air quality. Infrastructure Safety has fire detection and suppression and security monitoring products. Environmental Analysis focuses on water quality assessment and remediation, and the Medical business has devices that analyze eye health and blood pressure. It makes the majority of its sales in the U.S. and Europe.

Halma has delivered 16 consecutive years of rising sales and profits by combining organic growth driven by new products and services with niche acquisitions. Revenues grew 13% for fiscal 2019 – approximately 10 percentage points of that was organic, but Halma also benefited from niche acquisitions in infrastructure safety and health-care markets. Pre-tax profits rose 20%.

This steady Eddie has produced four decades of uninterrupted payout growth, putting it in an elite class within the European Dividend Aristocrats. The company also boasted in its fiscal 2019 report that, as of March 2019, an investment in Halma would have returned 1,141% over the past decade, which is more than twice the return from the Nasdaq Composite.

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Hermes International

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Market value: $77.0 billion

Dividend yield: 0.7%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 13

France’s Hermès International (HESAY, $73.87) is one of the most recognizable brand names in luxury goods – not bad for a company that got its start as a saddle-maker more than 180 years ago.

Hermès has grown upward and outward, however. The company nowadays is known for its high-fashion leather accessories, apparel, scarves and other consumer products sold through a worldwide network of more than 300 stores. And today, more than half its sales are generated in Asia Pacific; Europe accounts for 30% and the Americas contribute 17%.

During the first half of 2019, revenues improved by 12%, reflecting sales contributions from new stores recently opened in Shanghai, Singapore and Thailand. Hermès International also opened its 36th U.S. store (in New York City) and re-launched a Hawaiian store. Sales of leather goods improved thanks to strong demand for the company’s classic styles, and Hermès expanded its product capabilities. Apparel and accessories also performed well amid a favorable reception for new ready-to-wear clothing collections.

Hermès International has produced fairly reliable 13% annual sales growth and roughly 18% EPS gains over the past decade. The company has also been a good performer for its investors, returning 17.7% annually over the past five years – more than 11 percentage points better than French stocks as a whole.

In addition to its decent string of payout hikes, the European Dividend Aristocrat occasionally pays out special dividends.

SEE ALSO: The 15 Best Recession-Resistant Stocks to Buy

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European Dividend Aristocrats: 41 Top-Flight International Dividend Stocks | Slide 21 of 42

Imperial Brands

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Market value: $20.7 billion

Dividend yield: 11.7%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 22

England’s Imperial Brands (IMBBY, $21.88) is a global tobacco company that operates through Imperial Tobacco, which markets cigarette worldwide; the Tabacalera cigar business; ITG Brands, which sells cigarettes in the U.S.; Fontem Ventures vaping products and Logista, which distributes cigarettes and other goods to 300,000 outlets across Europe.

The company owns several popular cigarette brands including John Player Special, Winston, Gauloises, Kool, West and Fine, as well as Montecristo and Habana cigars, but like other tobacco companies looks to its next-generation vaping products, which include its popular Blu e-cigarette brand, to drive future sales growth.

The company anticipates 50% growth for its vaping products next year despite a somewhat uncertain U.S. regulatory environment for vaping. Imperial Brands is guiding for 2% sales growth in 2019, though it expects EPS to be flat year-over-year. The traditional tobacco business continues to generate low-single-digit growth, and the company recently launched a new heated tobacco product, Pulze, in Japan and several new oral tobacco products in Europe.

Imperial Brands is looking to sell its premium cigar business, expecting proceeds of up to $2.6 billion. And it aims to achieve annual cost savings of $260 million from a recently implemented expense reduction program.

The company is guiding for 10% dividend growth in 2019, in line with the European Dividend Aristocrat’s growth over the past five year. Imperial Brands also is unusual among U.K. companies in that it pays quarterly dividends.

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European Dividend Aristocrats: 41 Top-Flight International Dividend Stocks | Slide 22 of 42

Intertek Group

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Market value: $11.6 billion

Dividend yield: 1.8%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 16

Intertek Group (IKTSY, $71.80) is a British multinational product testing business that operates a network of more than 1,000 labs across 100 countries. Intertek Group provides quality and safety assurance testing to customers in the construction, health-care, food production and transport industries.

Intertek Group’s revenues rose 7% year-over-year during the first half of 2019, slightly below its 7.1% rate over the past five years. Adjusted EPS improved by just 7.2%, however, which is well below its 9.8% five-year CAGR for profits.

Recent acquisitions made modest contributions to sales. The company acquired cargo inspection businesses in Malta and South America in 2018, as well as a network security business in Malaysia and a SaaS solutions provider in North America.

Intertek Group envisions major business expansion opportunities through new customer wins and cross-selling, given that only $50 billion of the $200 billion testing worldwide market is currently outsourced.

The interim dividend grew 7% in the first half of 2019. Just note that Intertek’s U.S.-listed ADRs are extremely thinly traded, sometimes only trading 100 shares or so every few days, if that. That means even small orders can significantly move the price. Consider using limit and stop-loss orders when dealing with this stock.

SEE ALSO: 15 Dividend Kings for Decades of Dividend Growth

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European Dividend Aristocrats: 41 Top-Flight International Dividend Stocks | Slide 23 of 42

Johnson Matthey

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Market value: $7.3 billion

Dividend yield: 2.8%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 32

Johnson Matthey (JMPLY, $75.27) is a 202-year-old chemicals firm that participates in many cutting-edge technology markets. The company is a global leader in catalysts that reduce vehicle emissions. It also produces specialty catalysts and additives used by oil and gas drillers, metal fabricators, pharmaceutical manufacturers and developers of fuel cells technologies, medical devices and pharmaceutical and agricultural chemicals.

Clean-air applications represent more than 60% of the company’s sales and profits. Johnson Matthey derives nearly half of its revenues in Europe and one-third in the U.S.

During fiscal 2019, which ended in March, the company grew sales and profits by 10%, and hiked its dividend by 7%.

More recently, sales were flat during this year’s June quarter as a result of a slowdown in oil and gas markets. Still, Johnson Matthey is guiding for mid- to high-single-digit growth in fiscal 2020, with performance more weighted to the back half. It anticipates commercial sales commencing from its ELNO business, which produces advanced nickel cathode materials that improve the range and power and reduce the lifetime costs of electric car batteries.

SEE ALSO: 20 Dividend Stocks to Fund 20 Years of Retirement

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European Dividend Aristocrats: 41 Top-Flight International Dividend Stocks | Slide 24 of 42

Kerry Group

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Market value: $22.5 billion

Dividend yield: 0.6%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 33

Ireland’s Kerry Group (KRYAY, $127.23) is a leading developer and manufacturer of specialty ingredients used to improve the flavor, appearance and health benefits of packaged foods. It’s also a potential bidder for DuPont’s (DD) nutrition and bioscience business, which could fetch as much as $25 billion.

Kerry Group has delivered volume growth three times that of the food market by expanding its footprint in developing markets and acquiring businesses in clean-label food and food protection, among other things.

In its consumer foods business, the company benefits from rising demand for convenience meal solutions and snack foods eaten on the run. Kerry Group also has launched meat-free products that have been well-received by consumers early on.

For the first nine months of 2019, Kerry Group’s sales improved by 10% year-over-year. It’s guiding for 7% to 9% growth in adjusted profits for the full year.

Kerry Group boats 13% compound annual growth in adjusted earnings since 1986, 16% annual share-price gains and 17% annual expansion in the payout. Its most recent increase brought its dividend-growth streak to 33 years.

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European Dividend Aristocrats: 41 Top-Flight International Dividend Stocks | Slide 25 of 42

Lindt & Sprungli

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Market value: $18.2 billion

Dividend yield: 1.3%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 16

Founded over 175 years ago, Swiss chocolate-maker Lindt & Sprungli (LDSVF, $7,522.95) is the global leader in premium chocolates. The company’s popular Lindt, Hofbauer, Küfferle, Ghirardelli, Whitman’s and Russell Stover chocolate brands are beloved by consumers worldwide and sold through a variety of retail channels, including 410 company-owned Lindt, Ghiradelli and Russell Stover stores.

In the U.S., which is the world’s largest chocolate market, Lindt has the No. 1 market share in the premium chocolate segment and is No. 3 in overall chocolate sales. The company is expanding U.S. production facilities to support planned volume growth and making upgrades to its logistics network serving U.S. customers.

Lindt’s expansion into Eastern Europe is paying off with high-double-digit sales growth in Poland, Russia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungry. Other new markets are delivering 8% organic growth this year thanks to new store openings in Japan, Brazil and China.

Revenues grew by 6% during the first half of 2019, reflecting 5% growth in Europe, 7% in North America and 8% in other countries. The company is guiding for 5-7% organic sales growth this year. Operating income improved by 8%, but financing costs weighed on net income, which grew by only 2%.

The chocolate market isn’t a screaming growth play – Morgan Stanley forecasts just 2% annual market growth – but that’s still something considering a growing trend toward healthier foods. Lindt appears a likely winner thanks to its dominant presence in higher-margin premium chocolates. Just be careful: Like Intertek, LDSVF has extremely thin trading volume.

SEE ALSO: How to Retire on $500,000

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European Dividend Aristocrats: 41 Top-Flight International Dividend Stocks | Slide 26 of 42

L’Oreal

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Market value: $159.2 billion

Dividend yield: 1.5%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 36

French firm L’Oreal (LRLCY, $57.05) is a world-leading beauty brand with iconic skin-care, hair-care and cosmetic brand names such as Lancôme, Garnier and Maybelline. The company markets product lines in five beauty categories (Haircare, Hair Color, Skincare, Fragrances and Cosmetics), which include hair salons, drug stores, mass merchant retailers and e-commerce.

L’Oreal owns a 13% share of the beauty care market in North America and a 20% share in western Europe. It’s expanding in Latin America, Asia and the Middle East, where market shares currently range from 9% to 12%.

L’Oreal currently holds the No. 1 beauty care market share in the Asia Pacific region, where it enjoyed 24% sales growth during the first half of 2019. Another growth driver came from the company’s recently launched upscale brand L’Oreal Luxe; sales of Luxe products grew 13% and one-third faster than the overall luxury beauty market. New skin-care offerings and products for the travel market, where L’Oreal also holds a leadership position, also contributed to sales gains.

Going forward, L’Oreal envisions significant expansion opportunities in e-commerce. The company’s e-commerce sales are rising twice as fast as the e-commerce beauty market and represent 13% of sales today, up from just 3% of L’Oreal’s revenues five years ago.

LRLCY has improved its cash distribution every year since 1998 while maintaining a healthy dividend payout ratio of 54%. (Payout ratio is the percentage of profits that dividends account for.) Shareholders who have owned the stock more than two years also qualify for a 10% loyalty bonus dividend.

SEE ALSO: The Best Vanguard Funds for 401(k) Retirement Savers

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European Dividend Aristocrats: 41 Top-Flight International Dividend Stocks | Slide 27 of 42

M&G

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Market value: $7.6 billion

Dividend yield: N/A*

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 15**

Formerly known as M&G Prudential, Britain’s M&G (MGPUF, $2.92) changed its name when it spun off from Prudential (PUK) earlier this year. The standalone M&G is a major savings and investment business headquartered in London that serves 5.5 million retail customers and more than 800 institutional clients across 28 markets worldwide. The company is comprised of Prudential’s U.K. insurance and asset management businesses. M&G has $454 billion in assets under management as of 2019’s first half.

In the U.K. and Europe, M&G provides a variety of long-term savings and investment products, including PruFund, a family of funds that aims for long-term growth and minimal volatility. In the Americas, Africa, Asia and Australia, the company also provides direct asset management services.

M&G is unusual in being both an owner and manager of assets and can invest alongside its clients and deploy capital more quickly when opportunities for new funds emerge. In addition to being one of Europe’s largest asset managers, M&G is one of the U.K.’s largest fixed-income specialists and a leading global manager of private assets.

Research firm Exane BNP Paribas predicts 7% annual growth in asset management profits but worries that run-off from the insurance business will weigh on earnings until 2022, when profits are projected to rebound. MGPUF also is a thin-volume stock, so take care while investing.

*M&G has not yet paid a cash dividend since de-merging from Prudential. It plans on making two dividend payments per year, including an interim dividend that’s one-third the size of the previous full-year dividend. It then expects stable or increasing dividends over time.

**M&G shares maintain Prudential’s track record of 15 years consecutive years of uninterrupted dividend growth.

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European Dividend Aristocrats: 41 Top-Flight International Dividend Stocks | Slide 28 of 42

Micro Focus International

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Market value: $4.5 billion

Dividend yield: 9.5%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 13

Micro Focus International (MFGP, $13.58) is the U.K.’s largest tech firm, but the company has struggled since acquiring Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s (HPE) software business two years ago in a massive deal valued at $8.8 billion. The firm, which sells software and consulting services globally, has been slow to integrate the larger, U.S.-based business.

MFGP shares fell nearly 30% in a single day in late August after reporting a 5% sales decline in the first half of 2019 and warning of full-year revenues 6% to 8% lower than last year. Management blamed the weaker sales on poor execution compounded by a deteriorating macro-economic environment. Management also said it would accelerate a strategic review of the company’s operations, possibly culminating in a sale of all or part of the business.

During the first quarter of 2019, Micro Focus closed the sale of its SUSE open-source software business and returned the $1.8 billion of sale proceeds to shareholders. The company has raised its dividend 13 years in a row, including a 32% hike in 2018. Micro Focus paid an interim dividend of 58 cents per share during the first half of 2019, which was flat compared to one year ago.

Shares rose modestly in mid-October after Bloomberg reported that rival OpenText (OTEX) was considering a takeover bid.

SEE ALSO: 7 Low-Volatility Dividend Stocks for Peace of Mind

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European Dividend Aristocrats: 41 Top-Flight International Dividend Stocks | Slide 29 of 42

Nestle

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Market value: $301.7 billion

Dividend yield: 2.3%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 24

Swiss giant Nestlé (NSRGY, $104.49) is the world’s largest food and beverage company with more than 2,000 brands, 413 factories and sales in 190 countries. The company was founded more than 150 years ago as a developer of a breakthrough infant formula, and it merged with a milk company to create the Nestlé Group.

Nestlé household brands include Stouffer’s frozen entries, Purina pet food, Perrier and Poland Spring water, Toll House baked goods, Nescafé coffee, Lean Cuisine meals, Häagen-Dazs ice cream, Gerber baby food, Coffee-Mate creamer, Cheerios cereal and numerous other recognizable names.

The company aims to achieve mid-single-digit organic growth by stepping up investments in higher-growth categories such as coffee, pet care, nutrition, water and Nestlé Health Sciences. These categories together represent 57% of sales and 61% of operating profits. Nestlé also is shedding less strategic assets. Last year it sold its USA confectionery and Gerber life insurance businesse, and it’s reviewing its Herta charcuterie business, which may be sold.

During the first nine months of 2019, organic sales rose nearly 4% due to a strong performance from its Purina Petcare business, and the company is guiding for 3.5% organic growth this year, which should drive profit growth. It also plans to initiate a $20 billion share repurchase program in January 2020, helped by $10 billion in cash raised through the sale of its skin-care unit.

Nestlé is one of the oldest dividend payers among the European Dividend Aristocrats; the company has been paying dividends since 1959.

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European Dividend Aristocrats: 41 Top-Flight International Dividend Stocks | Slide 30 of 42

Novartis

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Market value: $210.7 billion

Dividend yield: 3.0%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 22

Swiss health-care company Novartis (NVS, $93.06) is known for its blockbuster drugs Cosentyx (arthritis) and Entresto (heart failure). Under a new CEO, the company has been pivoting toward more cutting-edge gene therapies such as Zolgensma, which treats spinal muscular atrophy. It’s one of the first gene therapies to go on sale in the U.S. and carries a hefty $2.1 million price tag. Novartis acquired the drug through the $8.7 billion purchase of the drug’s developer, AveXis.

Acquisitions in gene therapies and radiopharmaceuticals (drugs that carry radioactive particles to cancer tumors) build on earlier investments in Novartis’ new CAR-T gene therapy, in which blood cells extracted from a patient are modified to attack cancer and then reinfused into the patient.

In October, Novartis formed a five-year partnership with Microsoft (MSFT) to use artificial intelligence to design, personalize and optimize its CAR-T cancer therapy. The company also strengthened its heart treatment portfolio in November by signing a deal to acquire cholesterol drug-maker The Medicines Co. (MDCO) for $9.7 billon.

Novartis’ sales grew by 9% and EPS by 17% during the first nine months of 2019. Sales of drugs Cosentyx and Entresto rose 27% and 61%, respectively, and new drugs Zolgensma and Lutathera (cancer) contributed meaningfully to sales. The company recently revised its full-year financial guidance upward and targets high-single-digit sales growth and mid- to high-teens income growth in 2019.

Novartis’ annual dividend, which has grown for more than two decades, is inching along, including a small 2% hike for 2018. (Dividends for a year are declared in the following year.)

SEE ALSO: 25 Dividend Stocks That Analysts Love the Most

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European Dividend Aristocrats: 41 Top-Flight International Dividend Stocks | Slide 31 of 42

Novo Nordisk

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Market value: $132.9 billion

Dividend yield: 2.2%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 14

Denmark’s Novo Nordisk (NVO, $56.50) is a global leader in diabetes drugs. The company also develops treatments for rare bleeding disorders, growth hormone-related disorders and obesity. Its diabetes medications are used by 29.2 million patients worldwide in 170 countries. The company supplies nearly half of the world’s insulin from its manufacturing sites in Brazil, China, Denmark, France and the U.S.

North American operations account for roughly half of sales. Other significant markets include Europe, China and the Middle East. Insulin products contribute 50% of revenues, other diabetes products and obesity products contribute 34% of sales, and biopharmaceutical medicines for bleeding and growth hormone-related disorders round out the remaining revenues.

Because diabetes is a chronic condition, Novo Nordisk’s insulin sales create steady recurring cash flow. The company recently launched its new line of GLP-1 therapeutics for treating type-2 diabetes that is already approaching blockbuster drug status. GLP-1 is a naturally occurring hormone that induces insulin secretion. GLP-1 therapeutics have rapidly grown to become 17% of the worldwide diabetes market, and Novo Nordisk is the market leader with a 47% global market share in this new niche.

After the FDA approval its new drug Rybelsus for type-2 diabetes in adults in September, Novo Nordisk increased its sales guidance from a range of 4% to 6% organic growth to a range of 5% to 6%. It also sees profits improving by 4% to 6%. The company pays dividends semiannually.

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European Dividend Aristocrats: 41 Top-Flight International Dividend Stocks | Slide 32 of 42

Novozymes

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Market value: $13.7 billion

Dividend yield: 1.6%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 19

Danish Novozymes (NVZMY, $48.59) develops industrial enzymes and micro-organisms used in a variety of ways. They increase crop yields, improve animal health, extend the freshness of bakery products, reduce chemical use in textile production, remove clothing stains and treat wastewater. The company estimates that around the world, 5.6 billion people use products containing Novozymes enzymes on a weekly basis.

Novozymes is expanding its operations in emerging markets, particularly in the household-care and food and beverage segments. Novozymes installed offices in Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Kenya in 2018, as well as opened an Innovation & Technology Center in Turkey that will develop products for customers in Africa and the Middle East.

The first nine months of 2019 were difficult. Sales and earnings declined thanks to a softer U.S. ethanol market, and Novozymes now is guiding for a 2% sales decline and a 5% profit drop in 2019. However, free cash flow is expected to be unchanged from the prior year.

The company recently recruited a new CEO, Ester Baiget, from Dow Inc. (DOW). She will take over as Novozymes’ CEO in February 2020.

Novozymes pays dividends annually, though its last hike was a mere 1%. Still, that’s good for 19 consecutive years of increases.

SEE ALSO: The 7 Best ETFs to Buy for Retirement Investors

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European Dividend Aristocrats: 41 Top-Flight International Dividend Stocks | Slide 33 of 42

Prudential PLC

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Market value: $46.9 billion

Dividend yield: 3.5%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 15

Prudential plc (PUK, $36.06), as we mentioned earlier, spun off its U.K. and European operations earlier this year to focus on expanding its Asia, U.S. and Africa business. Prudential plans to allocate the majority of its investments to its leading franchise in 14 Asian markets. Cash flow for growth will be generated by harvesting profits from its Jackson U.S. retirement products business.

In recent years, Asia and the U.S. have been Prudential’s primary growth catalysts, generating 15% annual earnings and free cash flow growth over the past decade. During the first six months of 2019, Prudential’s operating profits improved 13%, beating analyst estimates, as 14% growth in businesses in Hong Kong, China and Singapore more than offset lower sales in Indonesia.

Prudential’s Eastspring Investments Asian asset management business expanded its footprint in Thailand in September by acquiring a majority stake in the country’s eighth largest mutual fund manager. The combined businesses will create Thailand’s fourth largest asset manager and sixth largest bank, with 10 million retail customers.

Prudential hiked its dividend, paid semiannually, by 5% in 2019.

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European Dividend Aristocrats: 41 Top-Flight International Dividend Stocks | Slide 34 of 42

Red Eléctrica

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Market value: $10.5 billion

Dividend yield: 5.7%

Consecutive annual dividend increases: 21

Spanish utility Red Eléctrica (RDEIY, $9.68) operates regulated electricity transmission and telecommunication businesses in Spain and also has electricity transmission concessions in Chile and Peru. Red Eléctrica is benefitting from robust power demand in Spain, which has faster economic growth than other eurozone countries. The company also leads Europe in renewable energy, which represents nearly half of its Red Electric’s power generation.

The company is in the second year of a five-year program that will invest $6.6 billion in various growth and diversification initiatives. Red Eléctrica is integrating more renewables into its energy grid, investing in smart grid and digitalization technologies, becoming a bigger player in telecom infrastructure and expanding internationally. The company acquired its electrical transmission businesses in Chile and northern Peru in 2018, commissioned a major new transmission line in southern Peru and acquired Hispasat, the fourth biggest satellite operator in Latin America and the eighth largest in the world.

During the first nine months of 2019 the company’s revenues rose less than 1% and EPS increased 2%. Red Eléctrica stepped up the pace of investments by nearly 15% with most of the funds being allocated for upgrades to the Spanish transmission network.

This European Dividend Aristocrat’s dividends, paid semiannually, have grown without interruption for more than two decades.

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