Johnson & Johnson's (NYSE:JNJ) mission is to "help people everywhere live longer, healthier, happier lives." For decades, the healthcare titan has done just that, while also delivering tremendous returns to shareholders along the way.

But is Johnson & Johnson's stock still a good investment from this point forward? Read on to find out.

Economic moat

The first thing I do when analyzing a stock to determine whether it's a buy is to study the competitive advantages of the underlying business.

Johnson & Johnson excels in this regard. The healthcare colossus combines the most comprehensive surgical technology business in the world with a powerful pharmaceutical company and a massive consumer healthcare product division. In this way, Johnson & Johnson is like a healthcare mutual fund, with more than 250 operating subsidiaries in 60 countries. 

J&J's operations span the full continuum of care: prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. This, combined with its dominant position within its core markets -- 70% of J&J's sales are from products that are No. 1 or No. 2 in global market share -- ensures that many of the dollars that will be spent on healthcare products and services in the coming years will flow into Johnson & Johnson's coffers, and ultimately, into the hands of its shareholders.

A person giving a doctor money

As healthcare spending increases, Johnson & Johnson's investors stand to profit handsomely. Image source: Getty Images.

Growth potential

A wide economic moat is vital, but whether Johnson & Johnson can continue to reward its investors from this point forward also depends on its future growth prospects. Fortunately, J&J operates in a $6 trillion global health marketplace. And it's growing larger every day.

J&J products already help more than 1 billion people around the world on a daily basis. Yet that still leaves over 6 billion people as potential customers. Reaching these customers will likely be more challenging, as much of this growth will occur in the developing world where income levels are lower. Still, there is a huge unmet need for healthcare in these areas. In fact, J&J says that demand for healthcare in developing markets is growing three to four times faster than in developed markets.

Moreover, J&J will also continue to grow in developed markets. Increasing life expectancies in these areas will lead people to depend on health products and services for longer, and likely more often, than they do now.

With its wide global footprint, Johnson & Johnson is particularly well positioned to profit from these megatrends. Yet rather than waiting for a rising tide to lift its boat, J&J is moving aggressively to seize these opportunities. It's investing heavily in research and development, to the tune of more than $9 billion in 2016. These efforts have produced one of the strongest drug portfolios in the industry. In addition, J&J remains on the hunt for acquisitions, which adds another potential source of long-term growth.


Johnson & Johnson's strong competitive position and sizable growth prospects make it an intriguing investment idea. Income-focused investors will also appreciate J&J's 55 consecutive years of dividend increases and 2.3% yield, which together make J&J's stock one of the most reliable streams of steadily rising dividend income available on the market today.

Better still, Johnson & Johnson's shares can currently be had for a relative bargain price compared to the market as a whole. J&J's forward price-to-earnings ratio of 18.5 is less than that of the S&P 500, which is trading at a forward P/E of nearly 19. Thus, we currently have the opportunity to buy a high-quality, competitively advantaged business at a price that's less than that of the average S&P 500 stock. That's an opportunity that should reward the investors who seize it, and it makes Johnson & Johnson's stock a buy today.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.