It's not all about garbage for Waste Management. Recycling has become a cash cow for the firm -- if still a small part of the firm's total operations. WM's portfolio includes 22 waste-to-energy plants that are designed to turn the waste that WM literally gets paid to collect into renewable energy that the firm gets paid for again.

Waste Management has been consistently generating cash throughout the recession, even if its share price was punished more than most other defensive stocks have. But with top and bottom line numbers just a hair's breadth away from eclipsing pre-2008 profits, WM is able to push a bigger yield to investors right now than it could before. That makes a dividend hike look likely right now, as this firm's share price plays catch up.


Staples ( SPLS) may be best known for its retail stores, but selling office supplies directly to businesses is the Massachusetts-based firm's bread and butter. Staples boasts more than 2,000 stores in 25 countries, as well as an absolutely massive online presence, weighing in as the second-largest online retailer in the world by sales. Retail is hugely competitive, with everyone from Wal-Mart ( WMT) to Best Buy ( BBY) trying to take share from the aptly-named office supply company -- that's what makes B2B sales so attractive.

Staples has a delivery infrastructure that conventional retailers can't match. For that reason, the firm is able to hold onto the bulk office supply market better than anyone else. Because office supplies typically make up a tiny share of companies' costs, the convenience of both next-day local delivery and brick-and-mortar locations makes SPLS a no-brainer for most delivery accounts. The firm has been a big proponent of boosting the number of private label SKUs in its inventory, a move that's helped to hike margins and give SPLS better costs than competitors without the wherewithal or the desire to delve into producing their own notebooks, pens, and reams of paper.

Staples tacked on some debt to acquire Corporate Express in 2008, but the exposure to the corporate delivery market was worth the leverage, and management has been aggressive about paying down outstanding borrowings. Today, with more than a billion dollars in cash and $1.6 billion in debt, SPLS is in strong financial health. The firm's 11-cent quarterly dividend comes out to a hefty 3.84% yield right now, but four straight quarters at that payout make a modest hike look probable for the next quarter.

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