According to a 2012 Yale study, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway has the best risk adjusted return of any company or mutual fund that's 30+ years old.
How can you emulate his results? The answer lies in an analysis of Berkshire's top five stock holdings which have three key characteristics: high-quality growing businesses with strong competitive advantages, large and consistently growing cash flows that allow for above average yields and decades of dividend growth, and each was purchased at a time when it was undervalued.
Growing dividends represent key Buffet qualities
|Company||Yield||Long-Term Dividend Growth Record||Annual Operating Cash Flow ($Billion)|
|Wells Fargo||2.70%||9.47% over 42 years||na|
|Coca-Cola||3.10%||12.01% 52 years||10.8|
|American Express||1.20%||7.22% over 37 years||8.9|
|IBM||2.30%||14.26% over 52 years||17.3|
|Walmart||2.60%||23.33% over 40 years||23.9|
|Average||2.38%||13.26% over 44.6 years||15.2|
|S&P 500||1.96%||5.05% over 24 years|
Buffett's affinity for dividend growth stocks isn't surprising, given that a 2004 study by money manager Ned Davis found that these stocks had been the best-performing class of equity investments between 1972 and 2004.
|Dividend Policy||Annual Return 1972-2004|
|Dividend cutters and eliminators||5.2%|
|All dividend payers||10.1%|
|Dividend growers and initiators||10.6%|
But why do high-yielding dividend growth stocks perform so well over time? Most likely because a high and growing dividend signifies that a company matches all of Buffett's investing criteria.
For example, in order to pay a sustainable and growing dividend a company must generate significant and growing cash flows. This cash flow itself is likely an indication of a competitive advantage and pricing power, both characteristics of high-quality that Buffett looks for.
In addition, a long track record of dividend growth is a sign that management believes in rewarding shareholders and is disciplined in its growth approach. Specifically that means taking enough risks to grow the business but not overly large risks that could threaten the company or its dividend growth record.
Finally a higher than market average yield raises the probability that a stock isn't overvalued, which in turn helps maximize the odds of long-term market out performance.
Given this information, how can you invest like Buffett? By choosing investments with the same characteristics that have served him so well: high-quality, high-yield, dividend growth stocks/MLPs. This will help you maximize your odds of beating the market and generating growing income that can help you maintain a high standard of living during retirement.
To jump-start your search, here are three companies that fit the mold of Buffett-style investments.
|Company/MLP||Yield||Operating Cash Flows ($billion)||Historic Dividend/Distribution Growth Rate||Projected 5 Year Dividend/Distribution Growth Rate|
|Brookfield Infrastructure Partners||4.80%||0.7||13.08%||7.49%|
Relative to the S&P 500, a portfolio consisting of Kinder Morgan Inc (NYSE:KMI), Linn Energy (NASDAQOTH:LINEQ) or its non-MLP equivalent LinnCo (UNKNOWN:LNCO.DL), and Brookfield Infrastructure Partners (NYSE:BIP) would have quadruple the yield and 31% faster dividend/distribution growth rate.
These three companies represent some of the finest high-yield dividend growth opportunities I've ever seen. Here's why.
Kinder Morgan Inc
Kinder Morgan Inc is America's largest operator of natural gas pipelines and represents one of the best ways for long-term investors to profit from America's oil and gas boom. Consider these estimates from research firm IHS:
- By 2026, investment in America's energy sector will reach $890 billion.
- By 2035 investment in America's midstream (gathering, transportation pipelines, processing and storage facilities) infrastructure -- Kinder Morgan's specialty -- will amount to $640 billion.
Founder, President, and CEO Richard Kinder has stated that Kinder Morgan wishes to "pursue expansion and acquisitions in a target-rich environment." This includes a potential acquisition pool of 120 master limited partnerships with a combined enterprise value (cost to acquire) of $875 billion.
There are three reasons you should consider Linn Energy or its non-MLP equivalent, LinnCo, for your retirement income portfolio. First, its sky-high yield is paid monthly, making it great for covering living expenses or accelerating the compounding power of dividend reinvestment.
Third, management is looking for additional acquisitions to fuel future dividend growth. Given that Linn Energy has a proven track record of 62 successful acquisitions worth $17 billion since its IPO and has a $46 billion market to go hunting in, investors can expect further deals in the future.
Brookfield Infrastructure Partners
There are three key reasons to invest in Brookfield Infrastructure Partners.
First, it's one of the most diversified utilities on earth, owning many hard-to-replicate, cash-flow-generating assets all over the world, including: 3,400 kilometers of toll roads in Brazil and Chile, 98% of Chile's power transmission lines, 30 international ports, a railroad monopoly in Western Australia, the world's largest coal export terminal, and 15,000 kilometers of natural gas pipelines in the U.S., among many others.
Second, its diverse cash flow base is 90% regulated or under long-term contract, 70% of it is indexed to inflation, and 60% of it has no volume risk. This, along with a 62% payout ratio, means the payout is likely highly secure, even in a global economic downturn.
There are three key characteristics to look for if you want to replicate Warren Buffett's investing success: quality companies, above average yield, and consistently growing dividends/distributions. Kinder Morgan Inc, Linn Energy, and Brookfield Infrastructure Partners all represent excellent Buffett-like investments that exhibit all of these characteristics and make for great additions to any income or retirement portfolio.