NEW YORK (
) -- As the 2009 -- and its associated marketplace horrors -- winds to a long-awaited close, we offer the top-six consumer goods stocks for 2010.
While money and economic worries have reined in trips to the mall and movie theater of late, America has turned to an unlikely low-cost lifestyle surrogate: gardening. And in doing so, they having helped position
as a solid play for 2010.
"Gardening was one of the country's fastest growing pastimes, as people stayed closer to their homes last year," says Connie Maneaty, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets, who cites Scotts as one of the consumer goods companies with the strongest potential over then coming 12 months. "They may do this again next year, and that fits with the company's strategy."
Maneaty points out that Scotts Miracle-Gro aims to increase its current market share in the Southeast (39%), West (43%) and Southwest (42%) to the dominant levels it already has in the Northeast (56%) and Midwest (52%). "Scotts Gro could grow a very strong business not as well represented in other markets, and that has presented them with really interesting opportunities," Maneaty says. Management believes this could drive an incremental $300 to $500 million in sales -- impressive for a mid-cap company that currently makes just over $3 billion in revenues.
Leading DIY stores including
sell the company's products widely throughout the year, but the company typically books around 70% to 75% of its yearly sales in the key second and third quarters -- the most important ones for its seasonal lawn and garden products.
Even the weak housing market could present an opportunity, as the company could benefit as eager sellers look to spruce up their properties for a quick sale, and opt to work on fixing up their lawns alongside a fresh coat of paint.
In 2009, Scotts Miracle-Gro grew sales 5% to a record $3.14 billion, driven by U.S. sales that grew at an even faster pace of 15%. Maneaty forecasts that Scotts Miracle-Gro will earn $3.20 per share next year, up 30% from adjusted 2009 earnings of $2.46.
No matter how much we all might despise chores, they're hardly going anywhere.
Thus, the continued strength of cleaning giant
, with its well-known stable of household brands, including the namesake Clorox bleach, Scoop Away cat litter, Glad trash bags, Brita water-filtration systems, Hidden Valley dressings and Kingsford charcoal. The company's products can be found everywhere from big retailers like
to almost every drug and convenience store across the nation.
Like many of its peers, Clorox has suffered weaker sales in the tough operating climate. However, the company still posted strong positive quarterly earnings, even as financially sensitive consumers reined in their spending this year. Clorox netted $157 million in earnings, or $1.11 in diluted earnings per share, in the first quarter fiscal 2010, still up 23% over last year, even in the weaker economic environment.
The underpinning of its success has been Clorox's steady sales of staple consumer goods throughout the economic downturn. The company also benefited from solid demand for disinfecting products driven by the pandemic H1N1 flu outbreak, leading to record shipments of Clorox disinfecting wipes. Even its less well-known food-products division posted double-digit sales growth.
Clorox reported $5.5 billion in revenue in fiscal 2009 with sales outpacing volume due to price increases. Recent growth in the the first quarter of 2010 was driven by cleaning and lifestyle products, which offset lower sales of Glad products. International sales account for 20% of total revenue, with notable growth in Latin America on the back of the H1N1 pandemic.
When consumer spending bounces back, Clorox should be well positioned to reap the benefits. "They're one of the companies that should benefit as retailers rationalize the number of SKUs (stock-keeping units) they hold on the shelf," says Nik Modi, a UBS analyst. "Clorox is in a good position to benefit from that, as they are typically the leading brand in all their major categories."
Last month, Clorox management reiterated its expectation for 1% to 2% fiscal 2010 sales growth and raised diluted earnings guidance up to $4.05 to $4.20, representing a high single-digit to low double-digit increase from the previous fiscal year.
The company also has a track record of looking after investors. Over the last five years, Clorox has returned 162% of free cash flow to shareholders through share repurchases and dividends.
Procter & Gamble
The more one learns about the brands
Procter & Gamble
owns -- from Pampers to Tide, Whisper to Charmin, Crest to Duracell, Gillette to Oral-B, among others -- the more one realizes how efficiently the company has monopolized the market for daily needs. P&G really isn't exaggerating when it says that "four billion times a day, P&G brands touch the lives of people around the world."
And just last week, P&G added another household name to its gigantic repertoire of brands. On December 11, it announced it signed a binding offer to buy Sara Lee's Ambi Pur air care brand for $470 million, and expected to close the deal before the end of the fiscal year in June 2010.
"Most of the people on the Street believe the company's margins are too high -- that there will be a potential big earnings reset," says UBS analyst Nik Modi. "I don't see that as the case. I see the numbers going up, and not down."
Modi's reasoning is that money falls back to the large-cap staple companies first whenever economic conditions start to recover from a slump and consumers begin spending again. "PG is one of them," Modi says, predicting better top-line growth and cost savings for P&G next year.
Although Modi doesn't see the company making any major moves or big strategy changes next year, he expects the company will begin reinvesting cash flow and focus on expanding into emerging markets including China, the Philippines, Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America.
For fiscal year 2010, P&G raised its outlook for organic sales growth to 2% to 4% and expects net sales to be up 3% to 6%, driven by favorable foreign exchanges rates that will add 1% to 2% to net sales growth. Management also updated its diluted earnings per share guidance to $4.02 to $4.12, anticipating growth of 12% to 15% from the past fiscal year.
Philip Morris International
One hears doomsday predictions for the tobacco industry every day, but the hard fact is: they're still here.
And with a roughly 15.6% share of the international cigarette market outside the U.S. last year, the king of international tobacco companies still rules.
There's a reason why
Philip Morris International (PMI)
remains the world's leading international tobacco company, with seven of the world's top 15 brands under its belt. Of course, one of them is the popular Western-themed Marlboro, with volume larger than the next three competing brands combined.
But even a king can suffer setbacks. During the third quarter of 2009, PMI reported earnings of 93 cents lower, compared to $1.01 in 2008 -- although, excluding currency effects, earnings would have been up by 8.9%. Lower organic volume in the quarter was driven by the company's pricing actions as well as the ongoing impact of the economic crisis on consumer spending.
Eager to make its investors happy even in trying economic times, PMI increased its regular quarterly dividend during the third quarter by 7.4% to 58 cents, with dividend payouts totaling $3.2 billion, and spent $8.9 billion to repurchase shares of its common stock in the first nine months of 2009.
Stifel Nicolaus analysts expect volume levels to improve next year, but lingering risks remain as consumers could trade down from the premium segment to lower priced brands. So why is analyst Christopher Growe bullish on PMI?
"Philip Morris will take prices up," he explains. "That will be major driver of top line growth. Pricing raised this year coming through next year" will contribute to strong organic growth.
Furthermore, global currency trends should help, Growe says, rather than hurt the company's earnings potential next year. "Currency will directionally shift into a tailwind for the company, helping buoy total sales growth of 13% and supporting our 11% estimate of operating profit growth," wrote Growe, in a note.
And last but not least, PMI's full suite of tobacco products will continue to serve to its advantage in 2010. Growe highlights its premium segment brands, which continue to set PMI apart from its competitors.
The strength of PMI drives Stifel Nicolaus to keep its buy rating on the company, with estimated earnings of $3.80 per share in 2010, up from $3.25 in 2009.
Johnson & Johnson
Now you're in the drugstore and in a rush to get back to your family, so you quickly grab the nearest remedy you can find, which is probably the one you recognize. Chances, of course, are you just grabbed a
Johnson & Johnson
product. The consumer healthcare behemoth sells everything from Visine to Tylenol, Listerine to Band-Aids, Neutrogena to Johnson's baby powder.
Indeed, we've come to depend on Johnson & Johnson -- and its more than 250 operating companies -- to such a degree that even as consumers tightened their wallets this year, the company performed soundly and posted solid results in the third quarter of 2009. Johnson & Johnson reported $3.3 billion in income and $1.20 diluted earnings per share, growth of 1.1% and 2.6% respectively compared to last year.
Jan Wald, an analyst at Noble Financial Group, maintains a buy rating for Johnson & Johnson, noting the restructuring measures the company is taking to lower costs. In November, the company announced that it would slash layers of management accounting for 6% to 7% of its global workforce. The company said the restructuring actions could lead to pre-tax cost savings of $800 to $900 million in 2010 and $1.4 to $1.7 billion when fully implemented in 2011.
As the economic outlook improves, Johnson & Johnson's consumer division is "a cash machine that should do better with any kind of economic uplift," Wald says, also noting the company's good pipeline in its Vision Care segment.
Amid the sagging economy, Johnson & Johnson's healthcare business also managed to power through a period of patent expiration and greater generic competition. For Wald, the worst is over for Johnson & Johnson's pharmaceutical businesses as "it's gone through most of issues they had with generic drug competition coming into the markets," Wald says. "They have a pipeline now that looks good."
The stock continues to return cash flow to shareholders, paying dividends amounting to $4 billion, and repurchased shares of $1.2 billion in the first nine months of 2009 despite the weaker economic outlook. Next year should be even better as the company confirmed its earnings guidance for 2009 of $4.54 to $4.59 per share, excluding the impact of special items, demonstrating the management's positive outlook on the business.
Although many associate
with its namesake carbonated drink, the company's portfolio encompasses far more than that.
Not only does PepsiCo manufacture, distribute and market soft drink concentrates and beverages, it also sells ready-to-eat cereals, hot cereals and syrup. In fact, 36% of sales come from Frito Lay, its snack food company, while the North American beverage accounts for 27% and International food and beverage generates another 30%.
Its most famous drink brands include Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Gatorade, Aquafina and Tropicana, while its snack brands, aside from Lay's, include Ruffles, Doritos, Fritos, Cheetos, Quaker, Cap'n Crunch, Rice-A-Roni and Aunt Jemima.
As the company continued to evolve and strengthen its portfolio of food and drink brands this year, PepsiCo booked solid third-quarter earnings of $1.09 per share or 10% more than its earnings of 99 cents in the year ago period.
In April, PepsiCo announced it would seek full control of its largest anchor bottlers, The Pepsi Bottling Group and PepsiAmericas. The company is seeking to tighten its grip on the distribution business, which has become increasingly important as the company's stable of successful brands continues to grow.
Then this month, PepsiCo announced that it negotiated an agreement with
Dr Pepper Snapple
to continue to distribute Dr Pepper drinks and other Dr Pepper Snapple products, which are currently distributed by the two anchor bottlers. PepsiCo will pay Dr Pepper an upfront fee of $900 million to seal the deal. The long-term deal will have an initial term of 20 years, with automatic 20-year renewals afterwards.
In the long run, these big investments by PepsiCo could turn into a gift that just keeps on giving. "The deal provides PEP (PepsiCo) with better access to key growth demographics in the U.S. (i.e. Hispanics)," writes UBS analyst Kaumil Gajrawala in a note.
PepsiCo has increased its spending in research and development, as well as infrastructure investments late in the year, causing it to lower 2009 guidance. However, Gajrawala believes this will provide the company with a successful launching pad into 2010 and beyond.
"We believe PEP is building a base for what is likely to be strong double-digit EPS growth from 2010-2012," Gajrawala writes. He has a 12-month buy rating for PepsiCo with a 12-month price target of $71.
"For 2010, we think the company will begin to show a turnaround in its U.S. beverages business, show strong international results and continued strength at Frito," Gajrawala said in an email. "This plus declining costs and productivity should support a solid year of beating Street estimates -- all while heavily reinvesting in the business."
-- Reported by Andrea Tse in New York
Follow TheStreet.com on
and become a fan on
Copyright 2009 TheStreet.com Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.