Stocks for the Long Run: Brown-Forman vs. the S&P 500

Investing isn't easy. Even Warren Buffett counsels that most investors should invest in a low-cost index like the S&P 500. That way, "you'll be buying into a wonderful industry, which in effect is all of American industry," he says.

But there are, of course, companies whose long-term fortunes differ substantially from the index. In this series, we look at how members of the S&P 500 have performed compared with the index itself.

Step on up, Brown-Forman (NYSE: BF-B  ) .

Brown-Forman shares have simply crushed the S&P 500 over the last three decades:

Source: S&P Capital IQ.

Since 1980, shares have returned an average of 15.9% a year, compared with 11.1% a year for the S&P (both include dividends). A thousand dollars invested in the S&P in 1980 would be worth $29,400 today. In Brown-Forman, it'd be worth $111,200.

Dividends accounted for much of those gains. Compounded since 1980, dividends have made up about half of Brown-Forman's total returns. For the S&P, dividends account for 41.5% of total returns.

Now have a look at how Brown-Forman earnings compare with S&P 500 earnings:

Source: S&P Capital IQ.

That's pretty solid outperformance. Since 1995, earnings per share have grown by an average of 8.4% a year, compared with 6% annual growth for the broader index.

What's that meant for valuations? Not much. Brown-Forman has traded for an average of 20 times earnings since 1980 -- about the same as the 21 times earnings of the broader S&P 500.

Through it all, shares have been strong outperformers over the last three decades.  

Of course, the important question is whether that will continue. That's where you come in. Our CAPS community currently ranks Brown-Forman with a four-star rating (out of five). Do you disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, or add Brown-Forman to My Watchlist.

Fool contributor Morgan Housel doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. Follow him on Twitter @TMFHousel. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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4/23/2014 4:05 PM
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Brown-Forman Corp CAPS Rating: ****

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