Although the U.S. appears to be averting a debt ceiling crisis as I write this, owners of bonds, bank stocks, or stocks in general continue to face an uncertain future. But no matter how bad things get, some companies will continue to do well. I've found three disaster-proof dividend stocks that will weather any storm, financial or otherwise.
The only guarantee in life
You can avoid taxes, but regrettably, you can't avoid death. An estimated 2.5 million Americans will die this year -- which, morbidly enough, spells opportunity for StoneMor Partners (Nasdaq: STON ) . StoneMor owns and operates 260 cemeteries and 58 funeral homes in the U.S., generating revenue through internment rights (burial plots and cremation rights), merchandise (caskets, graves, etc.), and the installation of said caskets into said burial plots.
StoneMor is an inherently stable business. Revenue at each cemetery grows at about 3% annually, a function of small price increases. There's no worry that the company will run out of land; it will take about 250 years for its cemeteries to fill up. The business grows by acquiring cemeteries, and there are ample opportunities to do so.
The four biggest companies in the death care industry own just 20% of the properties. StoneMor stands out from the competition via its 800-person sales team, which sells people burial plots and other such services before those customers actually need them. These are generally more profitable than at-need sales, and they provide the company with cash to buy more cemeteries.
StoneMor is operated as a master limited partnership. As I've explained before, these companies can be a great way for investors to earn income and pay less taxes. However, StoneMor is subject to additional rules because of legal requirements designed to make sure it's able to meet its financial commitments.
If StoneMor makes a pre-need sale, it must set aside 75% of the price of merchandise and 15% of the price of a burial plot in a trust until the money is needed. This money does not make it onto the financial statements as revenue until it's used. However, money can be drawn out of the trusts if the plot is prepared ahead of time. StoneMor's management uses these rules to pull money out of the trusts if an opportunity arises to purchase cemeteries at a good price. That said, these rules distort StoneMor's financial statements to make the company's 8.3% dividend look unsafe, providing an opportunity for investors to get in on the cheap.
Click here to add StoneMor Partners to your watchlist.
When trouble brews, what do Americans do? They load up on canned goods.
For more than 150 years,Campbell Soup (NYSE: CPB ) has been the choice for millions of Americans. The company has a 60% market share in the U.S. wet soup market, which translates into roughly 2 billion cans of soup each year!
In recent times, strong competition from General Mills (NYSE: GIS ) and others has eaten into sales and weighed on margins. Still, Campbell Soup is very profitable, has an absurdly high return on equity of 75%, and has a new CEO, Denise Morrison, who aims to correct slowing sales. Furthermore, Campbell Soup has paid a dividend every year since 1980, and it now yields 3.4%. That payout's more than covered by earnings and free cash flow, so there's no worry of the dividend being cut.
The approach of peak hurricane season should also help the stock. The months from August through October encompass 78% of the tropical storm days, 87% of the minor hurricane days, and 96% of the major hurricane days in the Atlantic. Campbell Soup is consistently more profitable after bad hurricane seasons. Expecting the worst, Americans tend to stock their pantries before storms and replenish them afterward, while the storm is still fresh in their mind.
Click here to add Campbell Soup to your watchlist.
The world's best dividend stock
When times get tough and people get stressed, millions around the world reach for a cigarette. While I don't count myself among them (when I get stressed, I go running), you can surely count me as a shareholder of Philip Morris International (NYSE: PM ) . The company has one of the strongest brands in the world, with seven of the top 15 global cigarette brands, including top-seller Marlboro. Years of advertising have burned Philip Morris' brands into people's minds, allowing the company to charge more for its products. Combined with an addictive product, this brand strength means the company will be a market leader for years to come.
And what a market leader! Philip Morris has an estimated 27% market share in its world markets -- excluding China, where government-owned China National Tobacco has a virtual monopoly, and the U.S., where the company's former parent, Altria (NYSE: MO ) , is dominant. It's diversified around the world, with 40% of its sales coming from the European Union, 24% from EMEA (Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa), 22% from Asia, and 12% from Latin America and Canada. This means Philip Morris would not be affected by a slowdown in the U.S.
To top it off, Philip Morris pays a 3.6% dividend that is growing. Because the company was spun off from Altria in 2008, it doesn't have a long dividend track record, but its former parent does. I expect long-term shareholders of Philip Morris to be handsomely rewarded.
Click here to add Philip Morris to your watchlist.
Foolish bottom line
I believe these three dividend stocks will do well no matter what Congress does in the next few days and months. If you're looking for more ideas than the three stocks above, consider the 13 names from a free report from The Motley Fool's expert analysts, "13 High-Yielding Stocks to Buy Today." Tens of thousands have requested access to this report, and today I invite you to download it at no cost to you. To get instant access to the names of these 13 high-yielders, simply click here -- it's free.