Not all large-capitalization stocks are boring and stodgy: far from it. For investors who know what to look for, many of the world's premier large-cap companies have unique situations brewing that could prove extremely profitable for owners of their shares.
To get Foolish investors started, we asked three of The Motley Fool's contributing writers to offer up their best picks for savvy investors in the large-capitalization space. In response, they identified General Electric (NYSE:GE), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), and Medtronic (NYSE:MDT). Read on for all the key details.
Sean O'Reilly (General Electric): There's something big going on over at General Electric, which is why it's my pick as a large-cap stock. GE is the quintessential industrial conglomerate. Founded over 100 years ago, it has its hands in a multitude of sectors, including gas and steam power systems through its power segment, wind-turbine manufacturing through its renewable energy segment, and aircraft engines through its aviation segment. Its energy connections and lighting segment offers power conversion solutions to both industrial and grid customers. And thanks to the acquisition of a majority stake in Baker Hughes, GE is now one of the world's largest players in oil and gas services.
GE is a true large-capitalization stock, currently valued at approximately $240 billion. The first thing investors should know about GE is that it's almost done with its plan to drastically reduce its investments in its GE Capital subsidiary. This is a big deal because it frees up ree up billions of cash that can be reinvested in industrial operations, or returned to shareholders via dividends and share buybacks. This is not only good because GE Capital has frequently been more trouble that it was worth (particularly during the 2008 financial crisis), but also because recent results in these operations have been solid: Organic revenues were up 7%, orders increased 10%, and industrial operating margins expanded 1.3% over the same quarter in fiscal year 2016. First-quarter earnings from ongoing operations (defined by GE as industrial plus verticals) came in at $0.21 per share, flat year over year, but a 12% gain once asset sale gains and restructuring charges are factored in.
All of this lends itself strongly to the idea that GE's future is bright, because the disposal of the vast majority of GE's financial assets, $198 billion at last count, means GE will no longer be deemed "systemically important" by regulators -- freeing up tons of cash. As was reiterated by management in their first-quarter conference call, GE will return somewhere between $19 billion and $21 billion to shareholders via buybacks and dividends this year alone.
Investors can expect these initiatives to bear fruit through the end of the decade, with analysts polled by S&P Global Market Intelligence expecting earnings per share to grow from $1.63 this year to over $2.00 by fiscal year 2019. Strong EPS growth, and a renewed focus on what it does best make GE a solid pick for Foolish investors.
Big and getting bigger
Travis Hoium (Apple): The biggest company on the stock market is still a smart buy today. Yes, despite its $800 billion market cap, Apple is still a great value for investors, because it's a cash flow machine with no signs of stopping soon. You can see below that Apple's cash levels have exploded the last five years, even as it's been paying investors bigger and bigger dividends:
Apple hasn't lost its hold on the smartphone market and accompanying ecosystem. Customers who buy an iPhone, iPad, or Mac are quickly brought into an ecosystem that drives services revenue, which topped $7 billion last quarter alone, and makes owning other Apple products more attractive. And while new iPhones and other products bring excitement to the company, the ecosystem is what keeps Apple customers coming back time after time.
Even if Apple isn't the revolutionary company it was a decade ago, it can still use its immense cash flow to buy back shares and provide a great dividend. Those are qualities in a large-cap stock that investors should love, and they make Apple a great buy today.
The wind at its back
Brian Feroldi (Medtronic): The demand for high-quality healthcare is poised to rise considerably in the years ahead, thanks to steady growth in the global middle class. That should prove to be a meaningful tailwind for all companies that sell healthcare products like medical devices. That's why I believe that Medtronic is a great large-cap stock for investors to take a look at today.
Medtronic is a highly diversified medical-device maker that has its hand in a number of healthcare markets. The company has a long history of buying or building innovative products that treat a range of diseases. Currently, Medtronic's business is broken down into four segments -- diabetes, cardiac and vascular, minimally invasive, and restorative therapies. The company sells hundreds of individual products across these four categories around the world.
One big benefit of this extreme diversification is that the company's financial statements are remarkably resilient to the competitive landscape or changes in the global economy. That has allowed Medtronic's financial statements to flourish even when a few of its business segments are under pressure.
Medtronic's financial resiliency has worked out beautifully for long-term shareholders. The company now boasts a 39-year history of increasing its dividend payment and regularly buying back stock. Those factors have helped the stock thump the S&P 500 over the last five years:
Medtronic's business model should ensure that it will continue to deliver great results for investors. With shares trading for less than 17 times forward earnings, I think right now is a fine time to add this stable business to your portfolio.
Brian Feroldi owns shares of Apple. Sean O'Reilly has no position in any stocks mentioned. Travis Hoium owns shares of Apple and General Electric. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of General Electric and Medtronic. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.