Spirits maker Beam Inc. (BEAM) has been quietly telling a post IPO success story following its spin-off from Fortune Brands (FBHS) in 2011. The firm has rallied more than 36% since then, a time when the S&P made just over half that. Beam is best known for its namesake Jim Beam brand, as well as other bourbon labels like Maker's Mark and its stable of small batch bourbons. It also makes Sauza tequila, Courvoisier, DeKuyper and the Skinnygirl line of ready to drink products.
The move to a pure play spirits manufacturer was a smart one for Beam's shareholders -- it gave them exposure to Beams best qualities without adding on the needs of a set of completely disparate businesses. Even though Beam owns a handful of second-tier liquor names, it makes up for that with its strength in the bourbon market, where it's the number-two distiller by volume. Even though competition is fierce in the spirits business, so is brand loyalty. A sticky customer base should help keep well loved brands like Makers throwing off considerable cash.
That cash should continue to come in handy deleveraging Beam's balance sheet. The spin-off left the firm with considerable debt, but management has done an admirable job of paying that down so far. The firm's 1.3% dividend payout helps to round out the shareholder yield focus that shareholders are getting right now at Beam.Southwest Airlines Southwest Airlines (LUV) isn't a typical legacy airline -- and until recently, that's been the secret to Southwest's success. The firm boasts a fleet of around 700 aircraft, primarily Boeing's (BA) 737, serving flights to more than 110 cities worldwide. Southwest's decision to do away with the conventional hub approach to flying was critical to the firm's ability to compete against the airline establishment. By focusing on profitable routes over network size, the firm was able to wring more dollars out of every seat on the plane. The AirTran acquisition dramatically increased Southwest's scale, giving it exposure to a slightly different demographic that includes two-class cabins for a change. The addition of Hawaii and potentially new international routes to Southwest's route map is worth thinking about for investors -- it adds considerable risks (the economics of each flight are more volatile for longer-haul flights), but it also comes with some big potential rewards.
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