Lilly's biggest fear and for the entire industry is the potential pressure that President Obama could exert on pricing with the group. That's why I picked the high-yielder with the best earnings coverage in the industry, and a decent balance sheet to boot. As one of the largest employers in Indiana, a swing state, Lilly has strong support among the state's senators and congressmen, which has allowed it to get maximum reimbursement for its breakthrough mental health drugs.
2. Consolidated Edison (ED) (ED): Better known as Con-Ed, this Manhattan based 6.4% yielder has the highest yield of all the regulated utilities whose debt gets an A-rating from the major credit rating agencies. In January of 2009 Con-Ed boosted its dividend for the 34th consecutive year and now has a quarterly payout of 59 cents, adding up to $2.36 annually.
Unfortunately, covering that dividend will eat up 74% of the company's expected 2009 earnings of $3.21. Normally, you know that to consider its dividend safe a company's earnings should be at least twice the size of the payout, so that it eats up only 50% of earnings or less. Con-Ed, however, is not a normal company. State regulators set the rates that Con-Ed and other utilities can charge, as well as the return on equity that they can earn. In April of 2009 Con-Ed was granted a $721 million rate increase and demand for electricity should pick up once the economy begins to recover, two reasons to feel far more comfortable that ConEd's long history of dividend boosts won't come to an ignominious end any time soon.
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