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3 Top Stocks in the Industrials Sector

By Neha Chamaria – Aug 28, 2020 at 7:16AM

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Want to invest in industrials? These futuristic technology-driven industrial stocks are screaming for your attention.

The industrials sector may not be as hot as tech, but make no mistake: Several industrial companies are as much into futuristic technology-powered businesses with incredible prospects for coming decades. If you know where to look, you could make a fistful of dollars in these stocks that often fly under the radar. 

Here are three such stocks I consider to be top picks in the industrials sector, largely for their technology-driven focus. 

This stock wants to make shareholders rich

ABB (ABB -1.12%) is an incredibly interesting industrials stock, given the kind of businesses it runs. In July, the company divested its power grids segment to Hitachi to narrow down "focus on industrial customers" through its four remaining segments: electrification, industrial automation, motion, and robotics and discrete automation.

Now when you look at that portfolio, it's hard to ignore the importance of automation and robotics to ABB's business -- two high-potential areas of growth in coming decades, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic. That's precisely why ABB is a promising stock to own in the industrials sector.

Statista projects the global market for robots to grow at a compound annual rate of 26% between 2018 and 2025. The International Federation of Robots, meanwhile, expects 4 million industrial robots to be operational by 2022 as diverse industries scramble to reduce dependence on human labor and intervention and automate production to speed up economic recovery post coronavirus. That should be music to the ears of ABB -- one of the top robotics automation companies in the world.

A robotic hand connecting to an industrial network connection on laptop.

Image source: Getty Images.

While the rising trend of industrial automation should power up ABB's growth, shareholders can expect some immediate rewards as the company aims to return to them $7.6 billion to $7.8 billion it received in sales proceeds for power grids. ABB has already announced a share buyback program, and I don't rule out the possibility of a dividend increase in the near future. The stock yields a good 3% currently.

All in all, ABB stock is a fantastic bet on the future of industrials, with a strong dividend to add to its appeal.

A promising product could lift this stock

Johnson Controls International (JCI -0.51%) makes buildings smarter through its systems and digital solutions. Its products include heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment and controls, fire detection systems, and security systems. As of the end of its third quarter, Johnson Controls' backlog value stood at $9.1 billion.

The company's latest offering is OpenBlue, an open digital platform that connects all systems in a building to provide better security and privacy while enabling tenants to manage systems like air flow, elevators, and door locks through artificial intelligence. OpenBlue is also being pitched as a solutions provider post COVID, with features like temperature scanning and air quality control. Johnson Controls aims to target its two million contract customers through OpenBlue.

Having such a large customer base also means substantial revenues from repair and replacement services. Johnson Controls' service offerings contributed nearly 26% to its total sales in 2019. The replacement market, therefore, is an important and steady source of income for the company.

Johnson Controls expects adjusted earnings per share to grow 10%-12% to $2.16-$2.20 in 2020. With a dividend yield of 2.5% and an impeccable record of paying dividends every year since 1887, Johnson Controls deserves attention from anyone looking to bet on industrials.

This compelling stock will now be part of Dow Jones 

Honeywell (HON -1.82%) is making it to the Dow Jones Industrial Average index, and for good reason: The company is perfectly aligned with the index's motive behind the shakeup -- to "better reflect the American economy." Honeywell is a hugely diversified company, serving sectors and industries like aerospace, defense, healthcare, manufacturing, chemicals, construction, and oil and gas, to name a few.

Take a look at Honeywell's 2019 revenue mix below. It runs four business segments: aerospace, performance materials and technologies, safety and productivity solutions, and building technologies. 

A pie chart showing Honeywell's segment-wise 2019 sales.

Data source: Honeywell International financials.

Honeywell's expertise, though, lies in using the power of technology to solve customers' challenges and serve their needs. Think Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, and artificial intelligence (AI). To give you an example, Honeywell used AI and predictive modeling to help Baosteel, one of the world's largest steel companies, automate its core manufacturing process and save significantly on wastages and costs.

Industrial automation has incredible growth prospects, and Honeywell is incredibly well-placed to exploit those opportunities thanks to innovation, consistent spending on research and development, and a rock-solid balance sheet. Its free cash flow has grown rapidly since 2012 to support growing dividends and share repurchases. The company's dividend per share has more than doubled since 2012, and the stock currently yields 2.3%.

With such an impressive portfolio, prospects, and financials, it's hard not to like Honeywell if you're looking to bet on industrials.

Neha Chamaria owns shares of ABB. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Honeywell International Inc. Stock Quote
Honeywell International Inc.
$166.97 (-1.82%) $-3.10
ABB Stock Quote
$25.66 (-1.12%) $0.29
Johnson Controls International Stock Quote
Johnson Controls International
$49.22 (-0.51%) $0.25

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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