Eli Lilly (LLY - Get Report) , known for mass-producing penicillin, the polio vaccine and insulin is an excellent opportunity for income investors.

Headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind., Lilly employs around 41,000 people worldwide, with over 9,000 employees involved in research and development.

For income investors, the company's dependable 2.7% dividend yield offers a compelling reason to buy Lilly's stock. With a cash hoard of over $4 billion and a nearly 13% profit margin, the company has increased its dividend for the last three years while maintaining a ratio of income to dividends of less than 90%.

The company drives impressive scale in the form of manufacturing plants located in 13 countries and global reach spanning products marketed in 120 countries.

Standing ahead of all other factors, is Lilly's rock solid earnings momentum. Newer drugs like Trulicity and Cyramza should grow at a rate that will help the company overcome falling sales from older drugs such as Humalog, Alimta, Cymbalta and Zyprexa.

Analysts expect that Lilly could push earnings per share (EPS) by over 11% annually over the next five years. That growth rate would be faster than Pfizer (PFE - Get Report) (nearly 6.5%), and Merck (MRK - Get Report) (nearly 6.5%).

Currently, Lilly is awaiting regulatory approvals for the promising autoimmune disease medicine, Baricitinib. Additionally, the company has 14 drugs in late-stage clinical trials and 19 in the mid-stage. All of this could lead to massive profit-making opportunities.

Dependable financials are essential when investors consider long term options. This is an area where Eli Lilly scores over several of its rivals. Despite $9.3 billion of debt Eli Lilly's debt to equity ratio is 0.6 in line with the industry average.

Competitor AstraZeneca (AZN - Get Report) has a mountain of debt at over $16 billion, pushing a debt/equity ratio of 1.1. Drug giant AbbVie (ABBV - Get Report) , with over $37 billion in debt, has a high debt/equity ratio of 5.8.

While heavy debts could signal solid investments, excessive loans are often a recipe for disaster. Recall, how Valeant (VRX) and Mallinckrodt (MNK - Get Report) struggled largely due to excessive debt on their balance sheets.

We believe Eli Lilly's future dividend growth would only improve as its growth rate accelerates. This is a strong healthcare stock with the potential to deliver at least 15% in total returns over the next 12 months.

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