Dividend stocks offer regular, dependable payouts and are regarded as "buy-and-hold forever" investment options.

Health care giant Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) - Get Report , with a market capitalization of more than $300 billion, is one of the two U.S. industrial heavyweights that command a triple-A credit rating from both Standard & Poor's and Moody's.

The company's near-impregnable balance sheet, diversified sales mix across consumer products, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, exposure to the global economy (51% sales outside of U.S.) and ever-rising free cash flows are huge positives that should drive growth and income for years.

The above factors also fortify the 2.8% dividend yield, and the record-breaking 53 years of annual dividend hikes.

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Johnson & Johnson remains a great investment opportunity on the basis of a simple but stark truth: Firms developing medical equipment or drugs will always find traction.

Unlike a Pfizer or a Gilead, Johnson & Johnson's reach and spread is immense: drugs, medical equipment, baby care and beauty products.

Johnson & Johnson boasts impressive long-term trends: 3.3% 10-year sales growth, 6.2% diluted adjusted 10-year earnings per share growth, and 8.8% 10-year dividend growth.

The company is made up of in excess of 250 operating companies in 60 nations selling products throughout the world. Merely on the pharmaceutical side, Johnson & Johnson offers 46 drugs raking in over $50 million each, 34 drugs with over $100 million in revenue individually, and 11 blockbuster drugs (over $1 billion each).

The company is a natural fit for risk-averse investors searching for the safest dividends.

Thanks partly to its financial strength and industry-leading innovation benchmarks, Johnson & Johnson towers above drugmakers like GlaxoSmithKline, AbbVie, Sanofi or Novartis.

With a plethora of potential drugs, supported by Warren Buffett and recurring sales from Band-Aid and Tylenol, Johnson & Johnson is expected to deliver consistent 6.5%-plus growth in EPS for the foreseeable future, maintaining its impressive return on equity (22%-plus), as well as dividends.

The company returned capital in bulk to its investors, ($11 billion - $15 billion every year over the past decade) through dividends and share buybacks subsequently.

At a price-to-cash flow ratio of 18.7, Johnson & Johnson is deservedly worth its premium valuation, over the industry-average of 16.9 times and S&P 500's 12 times valuation.


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The author is an independent contributor who at the time of publication owned none of the stocks mentioned.