This past Saturday, the The Wall Street Journal offered up a few words of investing advice from Dilbert creator Scott Adams:
"I have a theory that you should invest in the companies that you hate the most. The usual reason for hating a company is that the company is so powerful it can make you balance your wallet on your nose while you beg for their products."
Adams went on to list a few companies both obvious and counterintuitive. BP
A disclaimer against "mak[ing] investment decisions based on the wisdom of cartoonists" notwithstanding, Adams has a point. When a company's actions can wreck the ecology of a sizeable percentage of the planet in one fell swoop (BP), that's power. When a company can persuade people to buy its products sight unseen, even when no one has any particularly clear notion of what the product does or is good for, that's dominance. It's a force to be feared, even hated ... and it just might make for a good investment thesis as well.
Hate is a four-letter word
Of course, as I tell you all this, I realize that I'm speaking to the Fool community -- arguably some of the nicest, most polite investors on the planet. Expecting you all to summon up feelings of hatred for a company may be too much to ask. Yet I don't want to see you miss out on promising investments, either.
So I'm here to help, and allow you to express a little bit of vicarious bile. Below are just a few companies that I hate -- or perhaps the expression should be "love to hate." Feel free to buy them or not, as your emotions move you.
Exxon didn't blow up the Deepwater Horizon, but you can be darn sure the company is going to profit from it, as drilling bans in the Gulf of Mexico crimp oil supply and the cost of new government regulations gets passed right on over to consumers at the pump. As BP bears the brunt of consumer scorn and Exxon's Valdez catastrophe fades into history, the stock looks increasingly attractive at just 8.5 times forward earnings estimates -- with year-over-year growth expected to be well into the double digits.
Hate the high cost of health care? Then it probably does your blood pressure no good to know that just a few hundred miles to your north, Pfizer is selling the very same drugs that you use every day, to the Canadians, for less than you pay.
Is that fair? No. But Pfizer can get away with it because Pfizer owns the drugs! If Pfizer thinks it's good business to sell Lipitor for X in the U.S., and a whole lot less than X in Canada, France, or anywhere else in the world where the government regulates drug costs, then that's just what Pfizer will do, and there's not a thing you can do about it. But you can buy the stock for just 6.5 times next year's profit estimate and collect a 4.7% dividend while you wait for them to materialize.
Your cable company
If you live in America, there's a good chance you get your cable from Comcast
Little surprise, then, that Comcast just upped our cable bills by $5. Why? Because it can.
What can you do about it? When you're a customer living in a monopoly market, not a whole lot. When you're an investor in that monopoly, though, you can just sit back and cash those Comcast dividend checks, secure in the knowledge that with less than 30% of earnings earmarked toward that 2.1% yield today, the checks will probably only get bigger in the future.
Fool contributor Rich Smith does not love to hate. He does love to invest in monopolists -- just not any of the ones named above. You can find him on CAPS, pontificating on his favorites under the handle TMFDitty, where he's ranked No. 413 out of more than 165,000 members.