What's the yardstick by which all snooze-inducing events are measured? Watching paint dry? Watching grass grow? As somnolent as these activities may be, the paint and lawn-care industries harbor some pretty solid companies.
In the paint installment, we witnessed Wall Street analysts tripping over themselves to apply buy recommendations to various paint companies thanks to takeover speculation. As a result of these endorsements, many of the industry's stocks are now trading like Old Masters at a Sotheby's auction. However, we did manage to find one household name, Sherwin-Williams
I know the grass is always greener on the other side, but would your portfolio be greener if you opted to invest in a lawn-care company instead? Clayton, Dubilier & Rice seems to think so. The private equity firm recently uprooted lawn-service market leader ServiceMaster
Now that ServiceMaster has been weeded out, what other companies can we tend to? First, there are the firms that help people grow grass, like Scotts Miracle-Gro
Scotts recently returned about $750 million to shareholders in the form of a tender offer and a one-time $8 dividend. That drop-off on its chart is the dividend payout, not a massive sell-off. I've noted elsewhere a similar misunderstanding about Central Garden & Pet, which stems from a special stock dividend payout. I look favorably upon the move at Scotts, but the stock is priced pretty much on par with the ServiceMaster buyout, so there's no discount there.
I'm much more skeptical about Central's stock dividend, as were its own shareholders -- about one third of them voted against the proposal or withheld their votes in protest. Central stated in its filings that it intends to use this new stock to pursue acquisitions and contribute to employee benefit plans. The class A shares have no voting rights, so it appears that employees will get watered-down voting rights while management entrenches itself further. This move, in combination with some questionable amendments to the company's credit agreements, has wilted my hopes of finding value here.
So, how about the companies that help people cut grass? Of course, there's Deere
ServiceMaster may be leaving the public markets, but there are plenty of other great dividend payers out there for you to consider. James Early guides you to just such stocks in the Motley Fool Income Investor newsletter. You can check out all his recommendations with a free 30-day trial.
Fool contributor Toby Shute grew up in a Luddite household. His father champions the manual reel mower, which is slightly more technologically advanced than a scythe. ServiceMaster was an Income Investor pick, but no longer. The Fool's disclosure policy, however, is state-of-the-art.