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Health Care REIT Inc. (HCN - Analyst Report) announced a dividend of 76.5 cents per share for fourth quarter 2012. This represents a hike of 3.4% from 74 cents paid in the prior quarter. The increased dividend will be paid on Feb 20, 2013 to stockholders of record on Feb 5.

Health Care REIT has established an impressive track record of conservative capital management and cash returns to shareholders in the form of steady dividend and has declared 167 consecutive quarterly dividends during its 42-year history. With strong quarterly results, the company is well poised to maintain its growth curves and simultaneously benefit the shareholders with steadily rising dividends.

Notably, a number of REIT firms have increased their dividend payouts in recent months. This includes Vornado Realty Trust (VNO - Analyst Report), which hiked its quarterly dividend by 5.8% to 73 cents and DDR Corp. (DDR - Analyst Report) that raised its quarterly dividend by about 12.5% to 13.5 cents this month. Moreover, in December, lodging REIT, RLJ Lodging Trust (RLJ - Snapshot Report), increased its quarterly dividend by 24.2% to 20.5 cents per share.

Solid dividend payouts are arguably the biggest attraction for REIT investors as the U.S. law requires these companies to distribute 90% of their annual taxable income in the form of dividends to the shareholders.

Health Care REIT is a leading healthcare REIT with a strong portfolio of senior housing facilities, long-term care facilities, and medical office buildings across the U.S. The company reported healthy third quarter 2012 results, with recurring FFO of 91 cents per share that exceeded the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 2 cents.

Health Care REIT currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) and considering its fundamentals, we have a long-term Neutral recommendation on the stock.

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