P&G, Healthcare Service Group prove there are dividends in dirty laundry

The trouncing the stock market gave us over the last year has changed how we react to what were once boring corporate dividend announcements.

Where its regular dividend increases once were greeted with yawns, Procter & Gamble Co. hears “wow” for managing to raise its dividend annually for the last 53 years. On Tuesday, the maker of Tide laundry detergent boosted it by 10 percent to 44 cents a share.

One local company also has managed to turned dirty laundry into steady dividend payments.

Healthcare Services Group Inc. said it would pay 18 cents per share on May 15 to shareholders of record as of April 24 - its 24th straight quarterly dividend increase.

Providing housekeeping, food and laundry services to nursing homes and other health-care institutions may not be the stuff dreams are made of. But as long as the Bensalem company can retain at least 90 percent of its customers and win new outsourcing business, Healthcare Services Group will have lots of patient rooms to clean.

To that end, it just agreed to buy Contract Environmental Services Inc. , a small competitor in the Southeast, in a transaction valued at about $9.5 million, excluding the assumption of debt.

The aging of America and pressure to cut health-care costs all work in Healthcare Services Group’s favor. As CEO Daniel McCartney told analysts yesterday: “These are pretty good times for us.”

Kennedy’s team

Voorhees-based Kennedy Health System hired Paul A. Walker away from the much-bigger Temple University Health System this week.

Walker, who’d been director of business development at Temple for the last three years, is now Kennedy’s senior vice president and chief operating officer. He’ll be second-in-command behind Martin A. Bieber, who will become president and CEO on June 1.

Last June, Bieber was named successor to Richard E. Murray, who’s retiring after running the three-hospital system for 17 years.