In the 90-plus years since George Eastman started Eastman Chemical (EMN) to supply photo chemicals for his "main" business, Eastman has made some serious leaps and bounds over its sibling firm Eastman Kodak (EKDKQ). Today, Eastman Chemical is a major supplier of the chemicals used to make adhesives and coatings, as well as plastics and fibers. Its customers include everyone from automaker and construction firms to apparel manufacturers.
Commodities are poison to a firm such as Eastman, and management knows it. While margins have been squeezed lately by higher input commodity costs, Eastman's size and specialization mean that the firm has been better able to pass those costs onto customers (eventually) than many of its peers can. And more importantly, the firm has unloaded any businesses that produce commoditized chemicals that are subject to stiffer competition. If Eastman doesn't have an edge in a business, it's not interested.
Strong diversification (along with significant geographic diversification) is a big boon to EMN -- it means that the specialty chemicals that Eastman produces don't see sales as prone to the ebb and flow of a single industry.That, combined with a healthy balance sheet, sets the stage for a dividend hike in 2012. Currently, EMN pays out 26 cents each quarter to investors, a 1.9% yield at current price levels. To see these dividend plays in action, check out the at Dividend Stocks for the Week portfolio on Stockpickr. And if you haven't already done so, join Stockpickr today to create your own dividend portfolio. -- Written by Jonas Elmerraji in Baltimore.
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