Where is all of this new business coming from? The emerging markets. In particular, sales to Asia increased nearly 35% in 2011. As economies in developing regions expand, there's a substantial increase in the disposable incomes of their citizens. With a little more money in their wallets, a larger percentage of the population can afford premium international cigarettes. But of course, we're most interested in the dividend -- and its safety. Currently, Philip Morris International pays $0.77 per share every quarter. That amounts to $3.08 per share every year, or a 3.7% yield at recent prices. This might not sound like much to write home about, but here's the kicker -- Philip Morris has raised the dividend 67.4% since 2008.
And the company can afford to keep increasing the dividend. Like I said earlier, PMI has a payout ratio of 55%, indicating plenty of room for future growth, and a near-zero risk of a cut at this time. So though the shares currently yield 3.7%, investors who buy now are likely to see their yield on cost rise over time. Now, I know investing in cigarettes may not be for everyone. But as an analyst, it's my job to find investment opportunities. And with a history of steady cash flow, the strongest brand names in the industry, and substantial emerging market growth, Philip Morris International is an ideal safety-first income play. This doesn't mean this investment is risk-free -- nothing short of a savings account is. In fact, after a sharp move higher, conservative investors are likely to want to wait for a pullback before buying. But I do think the stock ranks high among the safest dividend-payers in the world. Philip Morris is just one of the many income-paying prospects available from companies focused overseas. In fact, I think the abundance of international income investments is one of the market's best-kept secrets. There are literally thousands of high-yielders abroad. To prove this, I recently had a member of StreetAuthority's research staff comprise a list of profitable companies with shares yielding 12% or more. What we found was pretty remarkable.