Cleaning and sanitizing product maker Ecolab (ECL) is another name that hiked its payout to shareholders in the last week and change. The company announced a 14.3% dividend increase last Thursday, bringing its payout to 20 cents per share.
While the firm's 1.44% yield hardly makes it a core-income holding, it's important to remember that payouts aren't static: Ecolab increased its dividend consistently during the recession. (Speaking of consistent dividend-increasers, check out these 10 New Dividend Aristocrats for 2012.)Ecolab is the league leader in the cleaning and sanitation product business -- if you've been to a restaurant or hotel lately, there's a very good chance that Ecolab's products are sitting in the supply closet. The fact that customers are willing to pay a lot for sanitation is also important; cleaning products make up a very small chunk of a restaurant's costs, but they contribute a major part of its reputation. As a result, Ecolab retains more pricing power than most commercial vendors. There's considerable room for Ecolab to expand internationally, particularly in emerging economies, where sanitation mandates are only just starting to catch up with Ecolab's existing markets. If the company can spend the resources on growing its base internationally, that investment should pay off considerably in the next several years. Ecolab, another of the 10 Stocks Gloomy Goldman Sachs Is Bullish On, comprises 3.8% of Mairs & Power's portfolio as of the most recently reported quarter.
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