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All Contents © 2017The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By David Milstead, Contributing Writer
| April 2015
When we searched for great stocks around the world, we had a few simple requirements. First, the stocks had to trade on a U.S. exchange, whether the companies were based in the U.S. or overseas. Next, the firms had to have superior profit growth. We also wanted stocks on an upward trajectory. Each stock had to have beaten Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index over the past five years. Each one had to be reasonably priced, too. That’s not to say we mandated rock-bottom price-earnings ratios—after all, great companies never come cheap, and they often stay expensive for a long time.
After polling investing experts and doing some digging on our own, we found 11 strong candidates.
All share prices, returns and related data are as of April 14; price-earnings ratios are based on estimated current-year earnings; annual sales are for the previous 12 months.
Share price: $165.99
52-week range: $130.60-$170.50
Market capitalization: $105.4 billion
Annual sales: $31.8 billion
Projected earnings growth: 2015, 9.0%; 2016, 10.0%
Price-earnings ratio: 20
Many companies try to keep things simple by focusing on a handful of core products. And then there’s 3M (MMM), which makes more than 50,000 different things.
Of course, the firm has its iconic brands, including Scotch tape and Post-It Notes. But 3M, known as Minnesota Manufacturing and Mining when it was founded in 1902, has consistently converted its robust research and development efforts into a multitude of products, from special films for LCD screens to combat helmets.
Growth is slim but steady at 3M, which reported $31 billion in sales in 2014. Over the next two years, analysts expect annual sales growth in the single-digit percentages, and annual earnings growth of just a bit less than 10%.
But the real bonus comes from 3M’s dividend, which the St. Paul, Minn., company has paid for 98 consecutive years. It has a 55-year history of raising those payments, too. In 2014, the firm hiked its quarterly dividend by 34%; so far in 2015, it has raised the payout by 20%. The stock currently yields 2.5%. That means shareholders get paid along the way as they wait for the stock price to go up, says Kevin Walkush, comanager of the Jensen Quality Growth Fund. “We believe this quality growth company is firing on all cylinders, and we like its prospects,” he says.
Share price: $126.30
52-week range: $73.45-$133.60
Market capitalization: $735.7 billion
Annual sales: $199.8 billion
Projected earnings growth: For the fiscal year that ends September 2015, 35%; for the September 2016 fiscal year, 8%
Price-earnings ratio: 14
Woe is Apple (AAPL). Critics, it seems, have it in for the firm. The naysayers have bemoaned the company’s lack of innovation for years, but when Apple finally unveils a new product—the Apple Watch, introduced in September—they pan it. With iPod sales fading and iPad sales declining, the Cupertino, Cal., firm is now just a one-trick pony with its iPhone, the skeptics say. But we wouldn’t count Apple out just yet. Talk to us in a few years when you and everyone else you know wear a smart watch.
And those poky iPhones? They still have the muscle to drive record profits. Apple sold 74.5 million iPhones in the last three months of 2014, stunning analysts. Revenue from all iPhones rose 57%, to $51.2 billion, while no other Apple product posted double-digit-percentage sales growth, and iPad revenue fell 22% from the prior-year quarter. Thanks to iPhones, Apple’s overall sales for the quarter hit nearly $75 billion, a 30% jump from the same quarter in the previous year. Growth like that is dazzling for a company of Apple’s size: With a market value of more than $700 billion, it is the largest company in the U.S. It’s also the biggest earner. In the final calendar quarter of 2014, Apple reported $18 billion in earnings, a record for the firm—and for any company ever. As big as Apple is, analysts still see earnings growth of 35% in the current fiscal year, which ends in September, and 8% growth the following year.
And let’s not forget Apple’s dividends. Since it resumed sharing cash with shareholders in 2012, Apple has raised the payout each year, by 15% in 2013 and 8% in 2014. There is more where that came from—at last report, Apple’s treasury held cash and other investments worth a whopping $178 billion, or $29 per share. Apple stock currently yields 1.5%.
Share price: $123.98
52-week range: $58.11-$136.28
Market capitalization: $31.8 billion
Annual sales: $5.2 billion
Projected earnings growth: For the fiscal year that ends October 2015, 73%; for the October 2016 year, 8%
Price-earnings ratio: 14
Avago Technologies (AVGO) is a leading maker of “film bulk acoustic resonator filters,” which basically help smartphones work more efficiently. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, about 15% of its revenues come from Apple, says analyst Atif Malik, of Citigroup Global Markets. But Avago is more than just a “derivative play” on Apple, he adds.
Avago, which has headquarters in San Jose, Cal., and Singapore, has been moving into other fast-growing markets through a string of acquisitions. Last May, it acquired LSI (once known as LSI Logic), which designs chips and software that speed up storage and networking in data centers, mobile networks and the cloud. Since then, Avago has bought two more companies involved in cloud computing.
Avago’s P/E of 14 is attractive for a company that analysts think will generate 71% earnings growth this year—growth that is being fueled by acquisitions. (Next year’s growth forecasts are much lower because estimates don’t factor in the acquisitions.) Malik says he thinks investors will pile into Avago shares as the company continues its plan to diversify its product line through further purchases.
Share price: $213.91
52-week range: $148.16-$251.99
Market capitalization: $75.1 billion
Annual sales: $7.9 billion
Projected earnings growth: 2015, 20%; 2016, 33%
Price-earnings ratio: 29
Alibaba got all the buzz in 2014: Shares of the Chinese e-commerce juggernaut soared 38% on its first day of trading in the U.S. But Baidu (BIDU), the leading Chinese search engine, had a pretty good year, too. The stock, which in August will celebrate its 10th anniversary trading on the Nasdaq, climbed 39% over the past 12 months. Indeed, growth at the firm, often called the “Chinese Google,” is humming along. Baidu posted $7.9 billion in sales in 2014, up 50% from the previous year. And the company’s earnings per share, at $6.01 in 2014, came in nearly 25% above 2013 levels.
Of course, it’s possible that Alibaba and other Chinese Internet firms, such as Sohu.com (SOHU) and Tencent Holdings (TCEHY), may steal some market share from Baidu in China’s Internet search and online advertising business, says S&P Capital IQ analyst Scott Kessler. But Baidu’s early lead and well-known brand mean it will likely maintain its market share over the next few years. Meanwhile, investors were underwhelmed with the company’s sales and earnings projections for 2015, so the stock is about 25% below its 52-week high of $251.99. Meanwhile, sales growth is healthy. According to Thompson, analysts expect 39% revenue growth in 2015 and 32% in 2016.
Share price: $111.51
52-week range: $72.91-$112.97
Market capitalization: $5.0 billion
Annual sales: $3.4 billion
Projected earnings growth: 2015, 23%; 2016, 20%
Price-earnings ratio: 21
Lennox International (LII) shares have been hot, and that’s pretty cool. But that’s only fitting, given the firm’s business. Lennox makes heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) products for homes and small businesses. The Richardson, Texas, company, founded in 1895, is one of the top five brand names in the U.S. residential HVAC market, says Morningstar analyst James Krapfel.
The company has steadily won business in the market for home heating and cooling units in recent years, even as the U.S. new-home market slowed down. Investors have noticed: Lennox shares have more than doubled since the start of 2013. As the real estate market finally recovers, the firm’s profits, which doubled between 2012 and 2014, will climb even more, Krapfel says. He predicts earnings growth of 21% this year, 23% next year and 17% in 2017.
Share price: $58.02
52-week range: $36.41-$59.53
Market capitalization: $1.8 billion
Annual sales: $631 million
Projected earnings growth: 2015, 33%; 2016, 51%
Price-earnings ratio: 22
Nexstar (NXST) has 87 television stations across the U.S. The company’s largest market is Phoenix, followed by Salt Lake City. (Technically, its Hagerstown, Md., station falls in the Washington, D.C., metro area market, but its signal isn’t strong enough to reach the nation’s capital.)
Operating in small and midsize cities helps boost Nexstar’s profits because the company pays less for its programming than do TV stations in big cities. As a result, Nexstar is highly profitable and one of the fastest growing firms in its industry. Its fourth-quarter revenues on a “same station” basis—a number that filters out the effects of acquisitions—increased 30% compared with the fourth quarter of 2013.
Growing through acquisitions is a priority for Nexstar, says analyst Michael Kupinski, of Noble Financial Capital Markets. Since March 2014, the Irving, Texas, company has closed deals to buy 33 stations for nearly $700 million. Expect more to come. Nexstar’s stations cover 18% of the nation’s households, well below the 39% maximum that government regulators allow. Kupinski believes Nexstar will post above-average revenue and cash-flow growth, relative to other broadcasters, thanks to its focus on small markets and smart acquisitions.
Courtesy Novo Nordisk
Share price: $55.35
52-week range: $41.72 - $56.18
Market capitalization: $143.9 billion
Annual sales: $15.8 billion
Projected earnings growth: 2015, –4%; 2016, 24%
Price-earnings ratio: 32
People around the world are growing older, and a fair number of them are putting on too many pounds. That likely means a rise in diabetes cases, which in turn will mean a greater demand for drugs made by Novo Nordisk (NVO).
The Denmark-based company started in 1923 selling insulin—an essential hormone, which diabetics lack, that helps the body regulate the amount of sugar in the blood. Today, Novo is a world leader in treatments for diabetes, which afflicts 382 million people worldwide. Diabetes drugs accounted for nearly 80% of the company’s revenues in 2014 (the remaining 20% came from Novo’s growing biopharmaceuticals business, which makes hemophilia and hormone-therapy drugs). Its top-selling insulin medicines, NovoRapid, Levemir and NovoMix, have been driving sales for many years, says Value Line analyst Mario Ferro. But Novo Nordisk continues to roll out new diabetes treatments, including Tresiba, a long-acting, next-generation insulin, available now in 23 countries.
One recent problem: The strong dollar. Although Novo Nordisk posted higher earnings in 2014 in Danish krones, the company experienced an earnings decline in dollar terms. Ferro says the “uncharacteristically wide fluctuations in currency translation rates have obscured the company’s underlying growth story.” Still, Novo’s American depositary receipts returned a respectable 17% last year, and they’ve surged 33% since February 9.
Courtesy OReilly Automotive
Share price: $217.04
52-week range: $141.74 - $222.94
Market capitalization: $22.1 billion
Annual sales: $7.2 billion
Projected earnings growth: 2015, 17%; 2016, 14%
Price-earnings ratio: 25
For many years, O’Reilly Automotive (ORLY), an auto-parts chain founded in 1957, stuck close to its midwestern roots. Ten years ago, it ran 1,300 stores, mostly around its Springfield, Mo., home base. But over the past decade, O’Reilly has expanded, partly through acquisitions, and now operates more than 4,300 stores nationwide.
O’Reilly serves both do-it-yourself customers and professional car repairers in a so-called dual-market strategy. Serving both means carrying a wide range of parts to satisfy professionals while being able to provide expert advice to amateurs. Ira Rothberg, a comanager of Hennessy Focus Fund, says the company’s scope means it can purchase its inventory at lower prices than its smaller competitors can. It is also well run, says Rothberg, with 24-hour service centers and an efficient inventory-management system that delivers products to stores quickly.
The O’Reilly story isn’t exactly undiscovered. Its shares have rocketed nearly 10-fold since June 2008 and, as a result, are on the pricey side. But if the company keeps generating double-digit-percentage earnings growth, the stock may be worth the price.
Share price: $103.80
52-week range: $61.83 - $108.91
Market capitalization: $21.5 billion
Annual sales: $11.0 billion
Projected earnings growth: For the fiscal year that ends January 2016, 10%; for the February 2017 fiscal year, 12%
Price-earnings ratio: 21
Why pay more when you can dress for less in the same brand-name clothes? As it happens, that’s the promise—and the slogan—of Ross Stores (ROST), a Dublin, Cal.-based seller of discounted clothing that operates 1,242 stores in 33 states, mostly in the West and South.
Shoppers are spending less at traditional department stores, and Ross Stores has benefited. In 2014, for instance, department-store sales slid 2.4% compared with the previous year, while Ross reported an 8% gain, says Bridget Weishaar, a Morningstar analyst. She expects that trend to continue. “We think consumers have become more price-oriented and are willing to trade customer service and an expensive store design in exchange for 20% to 60% discounts on the same brand-name merchandise,” Weishaar says.
Another plus: Ross tailors the merchandise to local demand in each market it serves, a strategy that keeps inventory lean and results in fewer markdowns. That, says Tuna Amobi, an analyst with S&P Capital IQ, boosts the company’s profit margins. Ross Stores boasts a return on equity (a measure of profitability) of 40% over the past 12 months, compared with a 25% average for retailers in the S&P 500.
Share price: $290.19
52-week range: $191.29 - $292.51
Market capitalization: $27.3 billion
Annual sales: $11.1 billion
Projected earnings growth: 2015, 28%; 2016, 15%
Price-earnings ratio: 26
The name Sherwin-Williams (SHW) isn’t synonymous with paint, but it comes pretty close. Not only is the Cleveland company with a well-known brand-name a leading maker of paints and coatings, it also has more than 4,000 eponymous stores in North and South America. A broad customer base ranging from do-it-yourself homeowners to professional builders, an improving real-estate market, and expectations for lower raw-materials costs this year could add up to positive earnings in 2015, says John McNulty, a Credit Suisse analyst.
Another boost comes from overseas acquisitions. After a deal-making spree over the past seven years, Sherwin-Williams now owns subsidiaries or licensing agreements to sell its products in 50 countries outside the U.S. That helped boost sales by 9.3% in 2014. (The strong dollar pinched results, but only a bit; it trimmed the company’s sales by 1.4% in 2014, according to the firm.) Sherwin-Williams has raised its dividend in each of the past 35 years (including a 10% boost in 2014). The stock currently yields 0.9%.
Courtesy Tata Motors
Share price: $44.53
52-week range: $36.58 - $51.80
Market capitalization: $28.7 billion
Annual sales: $41.7 billion
Projected earnings growth: For the fiscal year that ends March 2015, 17%; for the March 2016 fiscal year, -2%
Price-earnings ratio: 10
Tata Motors (TTM) is the leading automaker in India, the world’s second-most-populous country. The company also owns the Jaguar and Land Rover brands, which it purchased from Ford in 2008. Those premium brands have boosted Tata’s sales and profit margins beyond what it could record with its own brand on its home turf.
The “JLR” segment, as Tata calls its Jaguar and Land Rover businesses, is in overdrive: Sales in the U.S. in March were 36% greater than in March 2014, led by a 54% gain in Land Rover sales. Sales of Tata cars in India, by contrast, declined 5% in February compared with the year before. (JLR sales accounted for 43% of Tata’s total vehicle sales in 2014.)
A slowdown in India’s growth rate (from 8% in 2011 to roughly 5% in each of the next three years) hurt Tata’s domestic business, as cash-strapped consumers bought motorcycles instead of cars. But things are turning around. Kiplinger expects growth of almost 7% in 2015. And car ownership is low in India—17 vehicles per 1,000 people. (By contrast, in the U.S. there are more than 600 vehicles per 1,000 people.) All told, that gives Tata an opportunity to sell more cars in the coming years, says Morningstar analyst Piyush Jain. He adds that as roads improve, along with traffic laws and consumers’ safety awareness, car ownership in India should get another lift.
In March, the company announced plans to raise $1.2 billion by issuing more shares in order to reduce debt, finance the development of new models and invest in subsidiaries. It will be the largest public offering that India has ever seen.
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