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Estee Lauder

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Cosmetics and fragrance manufacturer Estee Lauder (EL) is a household name that owns a handful of other well-known beauty brands: EL owns popular names like Clinique in addition to mall staples M-A-C and Origins. That's enough makeup power to give EL a 25% share of the world's high-end cosmetics market, a segment that's managed to hold up surprisingly well in spite of the global slowdown in consumer discretionary spending.

Even though 60 cents of every dollar EL generates comes from overseas, the firm still has plenty of room to expand its reach abroad, particularly in emerging markets where a burgeoning population of middle class women is eager to trade up their makeup. Revenues have already eclipsed pre-recession highs, and the firm has built up enough cash on its balance sheet to neutralize its debt load.

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That financial success has helped Estee Lauder to increase its annual dividend in each of the last two years. At present, the firm's payout is a split-adjusted 52 cents per share, a number that I see increasing in 2012. Concentrated ownership from the Lauder family should help put an impetus on a bigger shareholder payout.

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