The U.K.'s historic referendum last year, to leave the European Union, dominated the news. It became known as Brexit.
Concerns quickly escalated that the U.K.'s decision could potentially lead to the dissolution of the EU itself. Fears swelled that other EU nations could follow the U.K.'s lead.
However, despite the market uproar, things eventually calmed down. The world did not fall apart, and the global markets returned to normal.
Now that it appears the Brexit fears were overblown, investors have an opportunity to buy some of the high-quality U.K. blue chip stocks that were hit last year.
Since these stocks are based in Europe, they are not members of the Dividend Aristocrats.
Still, the following three stocks are highly profitable, and have dividend yields of 3% to 7%.
Consumer Products Stocks Unaffected by Brexit
The great thing about the consumer goods industry, is that it is highly stable and fairly resistant to macro-economic events. Consumer products are needed and purchased every day by millions of people, very few of whom take geopolitical risk into account when they are in the checkout lane.
For this reason, investors should look into some of the major U.K.-based consumer products companies, such as Diageo(DEO) - Get Reportand Unilever (UL) - Get Report. Both are very resistant to recessions.
Diageo is a global alcoholic beverages giant. It has a massive product portfolio, which includes the two largest spirits brands in the world, Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff, and 20 of the world's top 100 spirits brands.
Just a sample of its flagship brands include:
- Johnnie Walker
- Captain Morgan
- Crown Royal
- Ketel One
- Don Julio
If you've been to a social gathering at any point in the past several months, chances are Diageo was very well represented.
Diageo has a huge portfolio of category-leading brands, and also has an unparalleled global distribution system. This gives the company high profit margins and steady growth.
In fiscal 2016, Diageo reported 1.3% volume growth, 2.8% net sales growth and 3.5% operating profit growth.
Sales rose in every geographic region last year. In particular, Diageo's emerging market operations are growing at a high rate. For example, volumes rose 9% in Africa in 2016. Net sales increased 4% in Europe and 3% in North America.
Diageo's industry-leading products and global scale allows for very high returns on capital. Operating margins increased over 120 basis points in 2016.
The company generated a 12% return on capital, along with free cash flow of approximately $2.25 billion last year.
This allowed it to raise its dividend by 5% last year.
Diageo's growth accelerated over the first half of fiscal 2017. Organic volumes and net sales increased 1.8% and 4.4%, respectively, in the first six months.
Diageo pays a semi-annual dividend. The stock has a 2.6% current dividend yield.
Unilever: Higher Growth than U.S. Competitors
Meanwhile, Unilever is a global consumer products giant. It has a diversified portfolio, nearly split between food and beverages.
Unilever was founded all the way back in 1885, which means it has a time-tested business model. The company has proven the ability to navigate many difficult economic periods, including wars and recessions.
It should continue to thrive, even under Brexit.
Unilever's brand portfolio includes 13 brands that each produce $1 billion or more in annual sales:
Like Diageo, Unilever has a heavy presence in the emerging markets. More than half of Unilever's total sales are derived from underdeveloped economies like China, India and Africa.
Unilever's emerging-market revenue rose 6% last year, due to a 1% increase in volumes and 5% growth from higher pricing.
Overall, earnings-per-share rose 7% in 2016, and the company generated $5.2 billion of free cash flow for the year.
For example, in the past two years, Unilever has made the following acquisitions:
- $1 billion acquisition of razor blade disruptor Dollar Shave Club, which could upend P&G's Gillette razor brand.
- $600 million acquisition of natural cleaning products company Seventh Generation
With these deals, Unilever is moving into fast-growing categories.
Unilever is a solid dividend payer, with a current yield above 3%.
For another high-yield, U.K.-based dividend stock, click here.
A Very High Dividend Yield in Oil and Gas
BP is an integrated oil and gas major, and is one of the highest-yielding stocks in the industry. Its current dividend yield is nearly 7%.
BP got hit hard in 2015 by the huge drop in global oil prices. It lost $5.1 billion that year.
Fortunately, conditions improved substantially last year. Oil prices recovered significantly off their lows, which helped the company turn in a $115 million profit for the year.
BP's earnings did not cover its hefty $2.40 per-share annual dividend last year. However, the company remains committed to keeping the dividend at all costs.
It is aggressively selling off non-critical assets, and cutting costs, to preserve the dividend. For example, disposal proceeds were $2.6 billion in 2016, and BP cut capital expenditures by $2.5 billion last year.
As an integrated giant, BP has a large upstream and a downstream business. The benefit of the integrated model, is that the downstream unit helps offset the upstream business when oil prices tank.
Upstream activities such as exploration and production, are highly reliant on the underlying commodity price. Last year, BP's upstream profit was just $574 million. Still, that was a notable improvement from a $937 million upstream loss recorded in 2015.
BP's downstream segment contributed $5.1 billion of profit in 2016. Downstream earnings are actually improved from volatile declines in oil prices, because it reduces feedstock costs and widens profit margins.
BP was also aided by a $590 million profit related to its equity investment in Russian energy giant Rosneft.
Going forward, BP's fundamentals could continue to recover. The company is still cutting costs, which will improve its efficiency.
And, it continues to grow production. Total production increased last year, to 3.27 million barrels per day, and BP management expects production to increase again in 2017.
This could be great timing for BP, as commodity prices are increasing. This will go a long way to preserving BP's hefty dividend.
The author is not long any of the stocks mentioned in this article.