In his seminal book Beating the Street, legendary investor Peter Lynch implored investors to "buy what you know," which meant to use your unique insights as a consumer to pick great stocks. However, this can often be harder than it appears, because you use numerous products on a daily basis that are often overlooked as investments.
In order to bring these companies to the forefront, we asked three Motley Fool contributors to name great companies you may overlook on a daily basis. Read on to see why Kinder Morgan (NYSE:KMI), Texas Instruments (NASDAQ:TXN), and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) made their lists.
This company's a gas
John Bromels (Kinder Morgan): Most Americans probably aren't familiar with Kinder Morgan, even though it's the largest natural gas pipeline operator in the country. Kinder Morgan's pipelines stretch from coast to coast and even into Mexico and Canada. It makes its money by charging companies to move their gas through its pipelines, in a model similar to a toll road: The more gas you move along Kinder Morgan's pipeline network, or the farther you move it, the more you pay.
Once that gas is refined and processed, a lot of it will find its way to American homes via third-party providers. According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, just under half of residential homes in the U.S. use natural gas as their primary heating source. But this can vary by region. For example, 57% of Missouri households use utility-supplied natural gas.
Even if you don't get natural gas service in your home, though, you may still be using natural gas through your electric company. More than one-third of the electricity generated in the U.S. comes from a natural gas-powered plant. Add it all up, and natural gas plays some role in practically every aspect of American life, whether it's a product that's manufactured at a natural gas-powered factory or the movie you watch in a natural gas-heated theater.
And with the country currently in the midst of a natural gas boom, Kinder Morgan has great growth opportunities ahead. It's definitely worth a look.
Boring products but exciting shareholder focus
Jamal Carnette, CFA (Texas Instruments): When investors think of Texas Instruments, the word that most often comes to mind is "boring." On a product basis, most envision the clunky TI-84 Plus calculator from high-school calculus. Yet calculators are a minor part of the company's revenue mix. Analog and embedded chips that power smartphones, tablets, and computers are more consequential -- Apple alone is responsible for approximately 10% of Texas Instruments' revenue.
The lusterless opinion extends to the stock. Texas Instruments remains overlooked among semiconductor makers, while AI-focused NVIDIA and AMD continue to receive rock star-like coverage. Meanwhile, Texas Instruments continues to quietly beat analyst expectations, recently outperforming in the first quarter.
However, what isn't boring is the company's shareholder focus: Management places a premium on free cash flow rather than accounting earnings; has committed to return all free cash flow to investors in the form of dividends and stock repurchases; and has reduced its share count by nearly half since 2004. Texas Instruments has outperformed the red-hot Philadelphia Semiconductor Index (dividends/repurchases included) in the last five years and should continue to do so as demand for chips increases due to the Internet of Things.
You can't live without it
Rich Duprey (Amazon.com): Purchasing goods from Amazon.com is not quite an everyday occurrence. And yet whether you know it or not, you're likely using Amazon's service every day of the year.
While its e-commerce platform is the most visible side of the internet giant, Amazon Web Services is its profit center, and the cloud computing business runs the back-office operations of companies whose products you'll find in your wallet, your kitchen cabinets, your living room -- just about everywhere you are. Capital One Financial, Expedia, Kellogg, and Netflix all rely upon AWS to deliver for their customers. And federal, state, and local government outfits including NASA and the CIA are using Amazon's cloud infrastructure.
Although AWS only accounted for 11% of Amazon's consolidated net sales in 2018, its $7.3 billion in operating profits accounts for almost 60% of the e-commerce giant's consolidated operating income. North American retail operations are almost as profitable, but web services is still Amazon's moneymaker. And its sales and profits are expanding while those on the retail side slow.
Because so many entities count on Amazon -- and so many people rely upon it without even knowing it -- you can expect it to keep right on growing.