Southern Co

Southern (NYSE:SO) is a gas and electric utility holding company headquartered in Atlanta. It serves about nine million customers.

The utility sector is known for being a defensive play. No matter how many times the Fed raises interest rates — and how bad next year turns out to be — people still need to heat their homes in the winter and turn the lights on at night.

The recession-proof nature of the business also means Southern can pay reliable dividends.

In April, the company boosted its quarterly payout by 2 cents per share to 68 cents per share, marking the 21st consecutive year that Southern has increased its dividend.

Look further back, and you’ll see that the company has paid steady or increasing dividends since 1948.

In the first nine months of 2022, Southern earned an adjusted profit of $3.35 per share, up 9.8% from the same period last year.

Last Wednesday, Wells Fargo analyst Neil Kalton raised his price target on Southern from $70 to $77. While he kept an Equal Weight rating on the shares, the new price target implies a potential upside of 11%.

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Kroger

The economy moves in cycles, but people always need to shop for food. As a result, Kroger (NYSE:KR) can make money through our economy’s ups and downs.

That’s one of the reasons why in an era where physical stores are under serious threat from online merchants, Kroger remains a brick-and-mortar beast.

The company has expanded its online presence, too. Kroger’s digital sales in 2021 clocked in 113% higher compared to two years ago.

You can see Kroger’s resilience in its dividend history: the company has increased its payout to shareholders for 16 consecutive years.

Evercore ISI analyst Michael Montani recently upgraded Kroger from ‘in line’ to ‘outperform’ with a price target of $56 — implying a potential upside of 26% from where the stock sits today.

Coca-Cola

Let’s round out the list with Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) — a classic example of a recession-resistant business. Whether the economy is booming or struggling, a can of Coke is affordable for most people.

The company’s entrenched market position, massive scale, and portfolio of iconic brands — including names like Sprite, Fresca, Dasani and Smartwater — give it plenty of pricing power.

Add solid geographic diversification — its products are sold in more than 200 countries and territories around the globe — and it’s clear that Coca-Cola can thrive under all circumstances. After all, the company went public more than 100 years ago.

More impressively, Coca-Cola has increased its dividend for 60 consecutive years. The stock currently yields 2.8%.

UBS analyst Peter Grom has a ‘buy’ rating on Coca-Cola and a price target of $68 — roughly 9% above where the stock sits today.

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