For much of 2023, investors have flocked to high-flying software stocks as artificial intelligence (AI) becomes all the rage. While many of these growth stocks have the potential to generate market-beating returns, holding them for the long term comes with a higher level of risk relative to blue chip names.
In fact, the tech-heavy Nasdaq-100 index has seen its price-to-earnings valuation rise from 23 to 30 in the past year alone. But the tech sector at large is still vulnerable to ongoing macroeconomic headwinds such as inflation and high interest rates.
The heightened uncertainty and volatility in the midst of this AI mania should have you considering other options for your portfolio, and dividend stocks can be an especially valuable way to reduce your exposure to the market’s hype cycles. These stocks tend to offer steady, modest growth supplemented by passive income.
Tobacco company Altria Group (MO 0.55%) currently has a dividend yield close to 10%. Let’s take a look at why this Dividend King may be worth a look for your portfolio right now.
Altria continues to transform its business
At first glance, Altria seems like a high-risk choice itself given the long-term decline in smoking rates around the globe. And the business does have hurdles to overcome as its revenue growth has slowed to a crawl, up less than 5% in the past five years.
Most recently, management has called out inflation as one major issue impacting sales growth. In the third-quarter earnings call, CEO Billy Gifford said, “[L]ook, our consumer is still under macroeconomic pressure, both the cumulative impact of inflation but even gas prices moving around.”
While this may initially appear alarming, it’s crucial for investors to zoom out and look at the big picture. Despite its stagnant top line, Altria is still massively profitable. For the nine months ended Sept. 30, Altria posted net income of $6.1 billion, or a roughly 30% profit margin. Altria is able to use these robust earnings to invest back into the business and also reward shareholders in the form of a dividend.
And these investments are key to the company’s long-term prospects. Altria has made a number of moves to grow its portfolio of tobacco alternatives, including its acquisitions of e-vape company NJOY as well as on! nicotine pouches. These deals will play an important role in the company’s goal to double smoke-free product revenue to $5 billion by 2028.
A dividend too attractive to ignore
As for the dividend, the chart below shows Altria stock’s yield over the past decade.
Data by YCharts.
The current yield of 9.5% is close to the 10-year peak. But a dividend this generous is only as attractive as the company’s ability to sustain it. Fortunately, Altria’s strong earnings keep the dividend safe, and management has a long-term target for its payout ratio of 80%.
So while Altria may not come with the same growth prospects or allure as a high-flying tech stock, management has a strong commitment to returning capital to shareholders, including a 50-plus year track record of growing annual dividend raises. Its push into smoke-free products offers the potential for growth, partially offsetting the gradual decline of traditional cigarette volumes.
With shares trading near their 52-week low, it’s hard to ignore the combined upside and income potential. For investors looking to bolster their portfolio with some dividend income, a position in Altria could be worth a look.
Adam Spatacco has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.