The Best Blue-Chip Stocks In The World
All too often, the financial media and Wall Street make investing seem far more complex than it needs to be. This is particularly true in regards to the individual investor. While finance certainly has its fair share of complexities, there are some basic tenets that the individual retirement saver can follow to keep things simple and also have an excellent chance of achieving stellar returns over time.
First, the average investor should focus on companies that are easy to understand and generate consistent, predictable cash flows. This is a concept that the greatest value investor of our time, Warren Buffett, has always stressed. This is an extremely underrated tenant of good investing.
The second rule to follow is to focus on companies which are very high quality, have a long-term track record of creating shareholder value, and have relatively large market capitalizations. Building a portfolio where core positions all demonstrate these qualities will substantially reduce risk over long time periods. The logic behind this can be summed up by Warren Buffett's quote that "time is the friend of a great business and it is the enemy of a bad business."
The third concept that individual investors should focus on is investing in companies that have preeminent brand moats. This is another hallmark of Warren Buffett's investment philosophy. A sterling and globally recognized brand is a tremendous competitive advantage which acts as a "moat" protecting the company's business from encroaching competitors. Let's take a look at three companies that exhibit all of these qualities - Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) and Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO). In my opinion, these are the best blue-chip companies in the world.
Apple - Everyone is familiar with the Apple story and it is the most revered brand in the world today. Investors who follow the tenants laid out above have likely been shareholders in the company for sometime. Apple fits the criteria to a tee. First, unlike many technology companies, Apple's business is very straightforward and easy to understand.
Apple is primarily a consumer company and this makes its businesses fairly easy to comprehend. Most of us have used the company's products and are familiar with its main revenue drivers - Mac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. These products have truly been revolutionary, and most users cannot help but be impressed by their utilitarian elegance. If you have used any of these devices and found them compelling, then you already have a solid foundation for understanding the Apple story.
Furthermore, because the company is primarily focused on the global consumer, and has created an almost unmatched level of customer loyalty and brand recognition, Apple's businesses generate consistent and reliable earnings growth. The company's cash flows are much more reliable than say an enterprise-focused technology company that generates most of its revenues from a handful of corporate customers.
Apple also obviously fits the second investment tenant - that a company be of very high quality and have a long-term track record of creating shareholder value. Over the last ten years, AAPL's share price has risen 4,484% and it is now the most valuable company in the world. Enough said in that regard.
Lastly, Apple's competitive moat and brand equity is world class. Right now, it is the most revered and desired brand by consumers in the world. While that could change over time, it seems quite unlikely that it will happen very soon.
Simply put, if you are betting on AAPL, you are betting on the best company and the most admired brand on the planet. While this doesn't necessarily guarantee that you will make money buying at today's prices, it certainly stacks the deck in your favor.
McDonald's - While Apple became the most valuable brand in the world in 2011, McDonald's is not far behind, ranking fourth. This is a tremendous stock which fits the investment criteria laid out in this article perfectly. From a business perspective, what could be more simple and straightforward than selling hamburgers, fries and Coca-Cola? Not much. A five year-old can comprehend the company's business and could probably elaborate on the reasons why it might be a good investment.
McDonald's absolutely dominates the fast-food segment, has a global footprint, and continues to grow. Not surprisingly, the stock has been a tremendous long-term performer, rising 280% over the last 10 years despite its large market capitalization and maturing business. Furthermore, MCD shares are currently yielding 2.82% and the company has paid out lots of dividends over the years.
The other remarkable thing about McDonald's stock, is that it is a defensive name which has trounced the market no matter what the environment. Normally, defensive stocks fall less in bear markets but lag in bull markets. McDonald's, however, barely budged in the worst bear market since the Great Depression and has far outpaced the S&P 500 in the ensuing bull market.
In recent years, in particular, MCD has been the best of both worlds - even in a terrible market it doesn't go down, and in a good environment it soars. As discussed earlier, McDonald's brand moat is impeccable. In terms of global value, it is the absolute cream of the crop along with Apple and and the next stock, Coca-Cola.
Coca-Cola - In 2011, Coca-Cola ranked as the sixth most valuable brand in the world, and in previous years it was number one. Not surprisingly, the company's largest shareholder is Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.B). The Oracle of Omaha has a $14 billion position in KO shares and it is Berkshire's single largest holding. It is pretty clear that Buffett has a lot of confidence in this company - and for good reason.
Coca-Cola's business model is both stunningly simple and incredibly lucrative. It is also extremely consistent and predictable because of the tremendous brand equity the company has with billions of consumers. Even in hard times, people across the world are willing to trade a small amount of money for a Coca-Cola product, and they do it over and over again.
In recent years, KO shares have lagged the likes of Apple and McDonald's, but they have still vastly outperformed the S&P 500. Over the last decade, KO has risen 44%. During this time the company has also paid out a boatload of cash to shareholders through dividends and the stock is currently yielding a very healthy 2.92%. On longer timeframes, KO shares are obviously the stuff of legend. Since going public in 1978, the stock is up 4,509%.
In terms of investment quality and operational consistency, Coca-Cola is nearly unmatched. Much of the company's success can be attributed to its global brand recognition which has provided it with a stellar competitive moat. You can find Coca-Cola, and its loyal consumers, on every corner of this planet. This is extremely rare and is the primary reason that Coca-Cola is such a special company.
Apple, McDonald's and Coca-Cola are three examples of companies which fit a fairly simple long-term investment philosophy that any individual investor can learn to follow. By focusing on high-quality companies with great brands and easy to understand business models, the average investor can substantially reduce risk while increasing their chances of achieving stellar returns.
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