Many investors gravitate to stocks that have the most interesting stories behind them. By doing so, they give up the chance to make even more money from stocks that are in much more boring businesses but that have the potential to deliver even better long-term returns. Below, you'll learn more about three stocks that prove that even the simplest of business models can produce amazing results.
Kimberly-Clark (KMB 0.67%) is a market leader in stable and mature industries related to basic health and hygiene. Most of the company's sales come from categories such as diapers, bathroom tissues, feminine products, and paper towels. The company owns several of the most recognized brands in the businesses where it operates, including names such as Huggies, Pull-Ups, Kleenex, Kotex, and Scott, among others.
Kimberly-Clark does business in over 170 countries, and more than half of total sales come from international markets. This international exposure is weighing on financial performance now that global currencies are depreciating against the U.S. dollar, but it also provides scale and reliability for investors over the long term. The company announced a 5% increase in organic revenue during 2015, so sales are still moving in the right direction when leaving currency considerations aside.
Importantly, Kimberly-Clark has a rock-solid trajectory of dividend payments over the decades. The company has paid uninterrupted dividends for 82 consecutive years, and it has raised dividend payments over the last 44 years in a row. On Feb. 11, 2016, Kimberly-Clark announced its latest dividend increase of 4.5%, bringing the dividend yield to a respectable 2.8%.
The dividend payout ratio is quite reasonable, in the neighborhood of 60% of earnings, so investors have strong reasons to expect sustained dividend growth from Kimberly-Clark in the future.
You may not have heard of coatings specialist PPG Industries (PPG -2.45%), but it's been around for more than 130 years. Paint isn't the most exciting product -- evidenced by the term "boring as watching paint dry" -- but PPG's stock has been rather exciting to its long-term investors, averaging annual growth of 12% over the past 30 years and 15% over the past decade.
It's not just PPG's past that looks good. Don't think of it as a domestic seller of paint for your living room walls. It's actually a global supplier of coatings and other things to multiple industries such as aerospace, construction, and automotive. Its industrial nature has made its fortunes rather cyclical, but over the long run, they're likely to keep growing -- in part because of its expansion abroad. Between 2005 and 2014, its revenue generated in the U.S. and Canada shrank from 72% to 47%, while revenue from Latin America, the Asia/Pacific region, and Europe, the Middle East, and Africa respectively jumped 200%, 167%, and 55%. Some of these regions, such as Europe and Asia, have seen growth slow lately, but that's not a permanent situation. Recoveries there, along with continued growth in car sales and airplane orders will serve as catalysts for further growth.
PPG offers a dividend, too, recently yielding 1.5%. That's not huge, but it has been steadily growing, and it's rather dependable, too. Indeed, the company has made 470 consecutive dividend payments, paying them every year since 1899. When you combine the dividend with the growth of the company (and its stock price) and also factor in share repurchases that have shrunk its share count by close to 20% over the past decade, you have a powerful performer. Its future looks promising, too.
It's hard to find a simpler business than tobacco, and industry giant Altria Group (MO 0.02%) has been one of the most impressive dividend stocks in stock market history. Altria's long-term returns over the past half-century are almost unmatched, and consistent returns in the range of 20% have come largely from dividend yields that have often been far higher than the current level of around 4.5%.
In addition to its dividends, Altria has spun off several key businesses. Its Kraft Foods unit has become a key player in the food industry, and international tobacco stock Philip Morris International has a high-profile presence in just about every important overseas tobacco market. When you look at the success that those spun-off companies have had, they only heighten the value that Altria has produced.
Yet those gains didn't come without risk. Altria has avoided what could have been catastrophic litigation, limits on advertising, regulatory oversight from multiple fronts, and extremely high tax burdens on itself and its customers. Even now, Altria is able to use its pricing power to grow even as cigarette volumes have declined. With such a long history of surviving and thriving, Altria has what it takes to reinvent itself when necessary and find new avenues for growth that will stand the test of time.