"Sin" stocks include companies whose products are generally considered to be detrimental to one's health or wellbeing. They typically come from industries such as tobacco, alcohol, gaming, and others. Products such as these are often distasteful, but the simple reality is that people have vices. What makes these companies good investments is that their products often exhibit inelastic demand, meaning consumers don't stop using them, even if prices go up. This provides sin stocks with significant pricing power.
Moreover, vice products are consumed no matter how the economy is doing. In some cases, vice products are actually consumed more when the economy tanks.
The bottom line is that sin stocks such as Altria Group (NYSE:MO), Diageo plc (NYSE:DEO), and Brown-Forman Corporation (NYSE:BF-B) steadily generate a stream of profits each year, and share their profitability with investors in the form of strong dividends.
World-class brands with high profitability
Altria, Diageo, and Brown-Forman are responsible for some of the most well-known brands in the world.
Altria is the tobacco giant behind the flagship Marlboro brand in the United States. In addition, Altria holds the Black & Mild cigar brand, as well as the Copenhagen and Skoal smokeless tobacco brands. Not only that, Altria also owns a voting stake in brewing giant SABMiller.
Approximately 90% of Altria's revenue and profit comes from cigarettes. To generate growth, Altria counts on pricing increases. For example, its average price per pack rose $0.15 in the first quarter, to $6.06, representing a 2.5% year-over-year increase. Adjusted earnings grew 10% last quarter, and Altria expects another good year in 2015. Full-year adjusted earnings per share are expected to fall between $2.75 per share and $2.80 per share. This would represent 7%-9% growth, year over year.
Altria's dividend yield currently sits at a juicy 4%. Over the past five years, Altria has grown its dividend by 8% per year. Looking back further, Altria has increased its dividend 48 times in the past 45 years.
Diageo is an enormous conglomerate that holds a huge number of alcohol brands, including Johnnie Walker, Crown Royal, Guinness, Smirnoff, Captain Morgan, and Ketel One. It sells its products in 180 countries, and its history as a company dates all the way back to 1886.
Diageo pays a semi-annual dividend. Its past two dividend payments amount to a solid 3% yield. Diageo didn't have a great year last year, as operating profit declined 9% for the year. But the company still grew revenue by 1% last year, and it generates more than enough profit to sustain its dividend. Its payout ratio stands at a modest 53%.
Plus, there's plenty of growth available going forward, as Diageo has an increasing presence in the emerging markets. North America accounts for 34% of Diageo's sales, while under-developed regions like Asia-Pacific represent just 13% of the company's sales. This exposure should grow going forward, as rising middle classes should result in higher consumption.
Meanwhile, Brown-Forman holds a number of popular spirit brands, including the world's best-selling whiskey, Jack Daniels.This brand is selling very well overseas. The company realized double-digit growth in Turkey, Brazil, Indonesia, and Ukraine, resulting in 5% currency-neutral revenue growth companywide over the first three quarters of its fiscal year.
The stock yields 1.3%, which is below the market average, but it offers the prospect of much higher dividends down the road. It has increased its payout by 9.5% per year during the past five years, including two dividend increases in the past year alone.
Brown-Forman has paid regular quarterly cash dividends for 69 consecutive years, and has increased the dividend for 31 years in a row.
3 sin stocks you can buy today
Altria, Diageo, and Brown-Forman have large portfolios of strong brands. The beauty of sin stocks is that their products are consumed by millions of people every day, no matter how the overall economy is doing. This results in reliable cash flow, and with low capital expenditures, these companies are free to return cash to shareholders through their strong dividends.
In addition, these three stocks have a habit of raising their dividends regularly. For investors looking to add some stability to their portfolios, sin stocks are a great place to start.
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Bob Ciura owns shares of Altria Group, and Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Diageo (ADR). The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.