The title reads like an oxymoron because it is. Some stocks are boring when judged by their pedestrian, established businesses. And though we might not think of them as feel-good, they really are (at least can be) when we think a little deeper.
Of greater importance is whether these stocks can make an investment portfolio feel good. I think so, but only if the correct methodology is applied. When vetting the possibilities of slower-growth companies, which these are, the value method is the sensible method.
Sometimes we want to feel good by feeling lethargic. One could argue that few foods induce lethargy to the extent of a 1,230-calorie hamburger, which is Burger King's
Nevertheless, Burger King might be the better value on the menu: Its shares trade at 12.1 times trailing-12-month earnings per share compared with McDonald's 15.9. Surprisingly, Burger King has even outpaced McDonald's on revenue growth over the past three reported years. On the other hand, Burger King has lagged McDonald's efficiency badly, as shown in net income.
Burger King has potential, but continued underperformance could eventually draw the attention of private equity, which has developed a taste for fast food. CKE Restaurants (Hardee's and Carl's Jr. parent) was recently acquired by Apollo Management. There have also been rumblings of a possible Wendy's/Arby's Group
Another underperforming food purveyor, ConAgra Foods
ConAgra's share prices remain second-tier as well, being held in check by threats of price wars and rising commodity costs. Today, the stock trades at 13.5 times fiscal 2010 EPS and only 12 times next year's annual EPS. Through the past decade, though, investors have been willing to pay 20 times EPS.
Price wars and costs tend to abate. While waiting for a more favorable environment and more lax investors to return, ConAgra investors are buttressed by a 3.4 percent dividend yield and an ongoing $500 million stock buyback initiative.
Before Red Bull lifted energy levels, there was coffee. And there always will be coffee, which is why investors should consider drinking in Farmer Brothers
It's also the contrarian pick in the coffee space, thanks to management that appears to have adopted the confused merchant's mantra to business: We lose money on every sale, but we make up for it in volume. From 2007 through 2009, sales increased from $216.3 million to $341.7 million, while net income slid from $6.8 million to a $33.2 million net loss.
Expenses associated with purchasing Sara Lee's
Heineken could be considered the ying to Farmer Brothers' yang, so investors might consider pairing the two.
Today, Heineken is much more than it's eponymous beer, having recently purchased Mexico's FEMSA Cerveza -- a company bringing non-overlapping strengths in Mexico, Brazil and the United States -- for $7.6 billion in stock. The FEMSA purchase turns Heineken into a formidable (and possibly faster-growing) opponent to industry leader Anheuser-Busch InBev. Meanwhile, Heineken offers a better current value based on price-to-earnings ratio multiple and dividend yield.
Finally, Carnival Corp.
The recent recession has taken some of the starch out of Carnival's sails, but less than you might think. Revenues have been generally flat and EPS has fallen, but Carnival has continued to earn money and pay a (small) dividend. When the economy picks up, count on Carnival's fortunes to pick up as well.
To be sure, these stocks might not seem to induce good feelings at first glance; then again, many things defy their true calling at first glance.
Fool contributor Stephen Mauzy, CFA, doesn't own any shares mentioned, but he continually owns output of Heineken's FEMSA subsidiary. He's the author of the upcoming book Wealth Portfolio. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.