I'll admit that the industrial gas supply business is boring. But more often than not, boring businesses generate exciting income growth for investors. That's why we're looking to Praxair (PX - Get Report), the world's biggest industrial gas supplier. Praxair's customer list ranges from hospitals to restaurants to welding shops, diversification that spares the firm from the cyclical headwinds that normally entangle industrials.
While it's true that industrial gasses tend to be relatively low-cost, the capital needed to bottle and transport them isn't -- a factor that enables Praxair to collect double-digit net margins for their trouble. Extremely low customer turnover helps too. Generally, packaged gas isn't a material cost for Praxair's customers, so the company pushes hard to get very long-term contracts that typically renew at very high rates. The contracts keep commodity risks off of Praxair's plate, but they mean that the firm is hugely entrenched against competition.
Financially, Praxair is in solid shape, with adequate liquidity on its balance sheet and hefty cash generation abilities. The firm generates enough cash to cover its debt obligations and leave enough left over to pay out its 55-cent dividend and then some. That's why this stock looks likely to boost its payout in the next quarter. Currently, that 55-cent dividend translates into a 2% yield for shareholders.Occidental Petroleum Oil and gas exploration and production firm Occidental Petroleum (OXY) may seem like a strange addition to the list today -- after all, energy companies have been hit hard by slipping commodity prices in 2012. But share prices have gotten punished more severely than the fundamentals have warranted for many energy stocks, and OXY still looks primed for a boost to its quarterly 54-cent dividend payout as a result. Occidental Petroleum is a pure play on oil and gas production. The firm doesn't own refinery assets, and it doesn't own gas stations. Lately, though, that proven to be a very good thing as downstream assets struggled to earn their keep on integrated firms' balance sheets. As a result, Occidental enjoys much deeper net margins than its integrated supermajor peers, and it's able to pay more cash to its owners.