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It seems like everywhere I look in my house, I find some type of Clorox (NYSE: CLX ) product. From the kitchen to the bathroom and everywhere in between, life needs to be cleaned, and trash taken out. So like Peter Lynch, I'm buying what I know, and adding some earnings (and cleaning) power to my portfolio.
Not long ago, I took a cursory glance at Clorox as a potential dividend play; it has a well-known catalog of products and brands. Ironically, though, I think its ubiquity causes many to simply overlook it. The company has been in business for close to 100 years, generates copious cash flow, and pays a 3.1% dividend to boot.
With brands such as Glad, Hidden Valley, and Kingsford charcoal -- not to mention its namesake bleach, and cleaning products including Formula 409, Liquid-Plumr, Pine-Sol, and Green Works -- Clorox has a tremendous reach. Though demand for its products may ebb and flow somewhat with economic conditions, with a market capitalization less than $10 billion, I think the company still has tremendous growth potential.
3 reasons this'll clean up
Go with what you know: More than 80% of the company's product lineup holds either No. 1 or strong No. 2 positions in the market. With such familiar and trusted brands, consumers often opt to buy the quality they know, instead of settling for a lower-quality generic substitute.
Global presence: I love Clorox's global exposure. Its vast portfolio of products is found in more than 100 countries, with manufacturing on five continents. Last year, about 20% of revenue came from outside of the U.S., and this trend is growing.
Fat yield piggy (special thanks to Inside Value advisor Joe Magyer for that one): Since I'm looking for a dependable dividend dynamo, I'm comofrted that Clorox has paid a dividend for 38 consecutive years. Furthermore, it's raised that dividend every year since 2002; in fact, the payout is now double what it was in 2005, and I like that it's a priority.
Producer prices: Clorox is sensitive to commodity costs to produce its products. Resin, agricultural commodities, and other raw materials -- as well as energy costs -- can hurt the bottom line. We'll need to keep an eye on operating margins to make sure they're not getting squeezed.
It's a private choice: Private-label brands do pose a threat, especially when times are tough. But when materials costs rise for one, they tend to rise for all. While some consumers trade down to private labels, many stick with the quality they know, especially when it comes to things like household products.
Customer concentration: Retail giant Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) is responsible for about 27% of Clorox's sales. That's a large number, but remember that Wal-Mart is a large company with a $187 billion market cap. Possibly the bigger concern is that the company's top five customers make up about 45% of sales. A pullback on any of these relationships could sting.
Is the price right?
I think Clorox is actually undervalued right now, amid concerns about private-label brands and higher input costs down the road. Today, the company trades for about 12.5 times normalized free cash flow; that's pretty attractive for what I consider to be a staid portfolio of brands. For comparison, competitor Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE: CL ) trades for about 15 times free cash flow. On a discounted cash flow basis -- accounting for Clorox's near-3.5% annual revenue growth over the last decade -- I see shares being worth $80 to $84 today.
My Foolish bottom line
Given its position in the market and its globally recognized brands and products (I've personally seen their stuff in Egypt and Kazakhstan, among other places), I'm plunking down $1,000 (about 6%) of my original capital to take advantage of some serious dividend power. Drop by my discussion board and let me hear your thoughts on this addition to the portfolio. You can also follow me on Twitter.
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