But that doesn't mean Goliath will lose.
Kimberly-Clark is largely a personal care business entity, churning out $1 billion in profits from a less than $20 billion top-line every year. P&G is a multi-faceted beast with over $75 billion in revenues and $7 billion in bottom-line figures.
It hasn't been the best of years for either company. P&G's revenue declined 3% (three-year average). Kimberly-Clark revenues declined 1.5%.
These slumps are understandable, in light of tailwinds facing consumer goods. Industry-wide revenues has fallen 3.9% over the past three years. The iShares US Consumer Goods ETF(IYK) - Get Report has posted a year-to-date market return of -1.33%.
What's worried P&G investors has been the recent double-digit decline in net income. P&G had a particularly bad 2015, as the company's shares lost nearly 13%, the first negative return year since 2009. Kimberly-Clark, on the hand, delivered a respectable 10% gain, its fifth straight year of double digit gains.
As a dividend investor, finding a solid, dependable yield scenario should be your number one priority. On the dividend/earnings payout ratio, Procter & Gamble's 73.4% is a tad high (and has been on an upward trend since 2008) compared to Kimberly-Clark's 60.3%. Kimberly Clark's payout ratio, however, went up to sky-high levels, pushing analysts to question its sustainability in 2015.
P&G boasts of 59 years of uninterrupted dividend growth, but Kimberly-Clark also has a fabulous track record of 43 years of dividend growth. The four-year dividend growth (CAGR) for both P&G and Kimberly Clark's shares are in the 5%-6% range.
On this metric, P&G scores high because dividend payments rarely crossed the 50% mark over the last five years (as well as trailing 12-months).
Kimberly Clark, however, doesn't look so hot, whereby dividends paid as a share of FCF are high (over 100%), if you take 2015 as an example. Unless Kimberly-Clark is able to boost its FCF engine, growing dividends may eat into its slim $619 million cash pile. P&G has a far bigger cash chest of $14.28 billion, capable of bankrolling dividends for a longer period of time.
While weighing the pros and cons, investors must account for Procter & Gamble's slow growth. Sales have consistently dropped and earnings per share (EPS) growth is projected at just 6.10% per year for the next half-decade. But then, Kimberly-Clark isn't growing at a scorching pace either, with a five-year EPS growth outlook of 7.15% per year.
At this time, P&G is a smarter option than Kimberly-Clark. Despite its recent sluggish performance, P&G offers reassurance because of its core DNA (balance sheet ballast, classic pedigree and acknowledged dividend safety).
P&G has also cuts costs and make some important, fundamental changes to address its changing markets.
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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.