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3 Top Stocks for Risk-Averse Investors

By Tim Brugger – Oct 23, 2017 at 4:49PM

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It's impossible to eliminate risk entirely, of course, but there are several stocks that minimize it dramatically.

Whether you are a retiree or simply an investor who doesn't want to toss and turn all night worrying about your portfolio, you have plenty of investment options that offer growth, and possibly some income, but won't keep you up at night.

Two technology companies that come to mind for similar reasons are data security provider Check Point Software (CHKP 1.37%) and the undisputed king of design software, Adobe (ADBE 5.55%). The third company on my list today, IBM (IBM 1.65%), is another option for risk-averse investors, but for a different reason. Let's start with Check Point.

Graph chart demonstrating Check Point's 100% success rate in detecting malware.

Image source: Check Point.

Leader of the pack

With a market capitalization of $19.6 billion, referring to Check Point as an industry leader may not seem appropriate. However, CEO Gil Shwed's decision over two years ago to focus on cloud software subscription sales has not only set a new standard among the company's peers, it's also driven outstanding results while limiting risk.

Last quarter's $459 million in revenue was an 8% increase over the corresponding period a year ago. That may not sound impressive, but Check Point's subscription sales and the recurring revenue they generate soared 27% to $118 million. Combined with the $202.4 million in servicing and updates revenue, the two stable, recurring revenue drivers accounted for 70% of Check Point's second-quarter top line.

Check Point's business model also reduces sales-related overhead. Last quarter's $114.7 million in sales expenses were just 25% of total revenue. Many of Check Point's peers spend nearly half their revenue on their respective sales efforts. The result of Check Point's lean overhead is continually skyrocketing per-share earnings, including last quarter's 18% rise to $1.12 a share. Growing, reliable revenue and a consistently improving bottom line make Check Point a risk-averse investor's dream stock.

Adobe's Creative Cloud user interface screen showing several images of the outdoors.

Image source: Adobe.

Subscriptions spell success

Adobe posted yet another record-breaking quarter last month, with $1.84 billion in revenue. Like Check Point, Adobe's top line takes a backseat to its outstanding subscription sales. It's been several years since CEO Shantanu Narayen did away with product sales of its popular Creative Cloud suite and began offering it only as a monthly subscription. After the initial pushback from customers, the model has now become the foundation of Adobe's stellar growth.

Last quarter's 27% increase in total sales was a new record, but better still was the 34% rise in Adobe subscription revenue to $1.57 billion. In other words, 85% of Adobe's third-quarter top-line results were generated from its stable, recurring revenue efforts.

And it gets better.

Exiting the quarter, Adobe's deferred revenue climbed to a staggering annual run rate of $4.87 billion. Thus, the company is ideally positioned to continue posting strong results for years to come. Again like Check Point, Adobe's recurring revenue business is driving outstanding bottom-line growth. Last quarter's $0.84 a share was an eye-popping 56% improvement over 2016.

The IBM logo on a wall.

Image source: IBM.

Off and running

The recent 9% jump in share price the day after IBM announced better-than-expected revenue and earnings per share (EPS) excluding one-time items, as well as strong growth in its key strategic imperatives, may leave some conservative investors concerned about downside risk.

The good news, beyond IBM's strong third quarter, is that it remains one of the least expensive stocks in its sector. At just 13.4 times trailing-12-month earnings, IBM stock is valued at less than half its peer group average of 28.7, and its stock boasts a meager valuation of 11.5 times forward earnings.

It took IBM longer than expected to get its transition off the ground, which is why it's so inexpensive, but the shift is finally starting to pay off. Its $8.8 billion in strategic-imperative sales -- cloud, data analytics, cognitive computing, and mobile -- made up 46% of the company's $19.2 billion in revenue. IBM's 3.75% dividend yield and bargain-basement valuation make it ideal for risk-averse growth-and-income investors.

Tim Brugger has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Check Point Software Technologies. The Motley Fool recommends Adobe Systems. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

International Business Machines Stock Quote
International Business Machines
$148.90 (1.65%) $2.41
Check Point Software Technologies Stock Quote
Check Point Software Technologies
$132.83 (1.37%) $1.80
Adobe Stock Quote
$344.93 (5.55%) $18.15

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