My life has been crazy by any standard.
I played professional football for three years until my career was cut short by injuries in 1992, leading me to pursue a career in professional wrestling. Having worked for
World Wrestling Entertainment
for 10 years, I have performed live in front of 15 million people and hundreds millions more on TV; been to over 60 different countries; been invited to the White House and Buckingham Palace; been the longest reigning WWE champion in over a decade; been to Iraq and the Middle East four times to visit our troops, and; spoke at the 2004 Republican Convention. I have even gone swimming with the great white sharks off the coast of South Africa.
I have appeared on every major news outlet talking about stocks and have written a book on common sense investing, "Have More Money Now". I have my own line of fishing merchandise coming out this year, which I plan to promote on my nationally syndicated talk radio show "The John Bradshaw Layfield Show."
With all of this I can honestly say the thing that gets me most excited these days is the opportunity to write for
. The market is my passion. To write regularly about stocks is like a fat kid having a free pass to a pizza buffet. I am in heaven. I have walked out in Madison Square Garden as the world heavyweight champion. Now I'm ready to face off with the heavyweights on Wall Street.
Before today's "featured performers," a quick recap about how I got here: With the money I earned playing football, I invested heavily in having a good time, and when my pro-football career ended, I had a whopping $27 in my pocket. Not
enough to retire on.
At that moment, I decided to never be poor again and started reading every book I could get my hands on about the market and watching financial news nonstop. When I finally had some money to invest, I had no doubt I could do it quite well, and I have. I've had a lot of success in the past seven years through a simple, basic personal finance strategy: Keep cash flow positive and stay as far away from debt as possible.
I invest in companies with the same philosophy. My two stock picks today,
, highlight my strategy. Both are cash cows with little or no debt; both are leaders in their field, my perfect scenario. I am willing to take risks in my job with the WWE, but not with my money.
The Main Event
Money goes where it is rewarded; lately that means commodities, real estate and energy. But a large inflow of money into energy or any other sector usually means that you have missed the real opportunity. Don't chase momentum.
I believe you are already seeing a shift back to large-cap stocks with record levels of cash on their balance sheets. These companies are just boring, old companies with huge market share that make a ton of money.
To me, Cisco is the headliner of the group. It has more than $19 billion in cash and investments, with no debt. It is a cash machine with more than $5.3 billion in free cash flow.
Cisco dominates the networking equipment market with an 80% share of all routers and 70% share of all switches. It owns the market and has shown that it can defend its market share. Cisco also has also shown it can increase already phenomenal gross and operating margins, currently 68% and 30%, respectively.
I have seen some
in my lifetime, but Cisco deserves to be one.
Another thing I like about Cisco is what it does with its cash. Cisco acquires companies and spends money on research and development. I couldn't believe that
couldn't find something better to do with all that cash -- i.e. a bigger stock buyback, massive R&D spending -- than make one ridiculously large dividend payment.
To me, Microsoft not investing in its own company is an indication it does not believe it can grow organically. By comparison, Cisco is using its cash to get into new markets like IP telephony, wireless networking, and storage. Cisco is targeting a total of 12 new markets it believes could each generate $1 billion in revenue over the next several years.
What Cisco does is the equivalent of having Bruno Sammartino, Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock still under contract, plus the current and future WWE superstars under contract as well. Cisco has owned the past and has made sure it will own the future as well.
There has been some concern over future earnings at Cisco. That's probably why the stock sells for under $18. Throw in a CEO like John Chambers and you have a great long-term outlook with an opportunity to get in at a bargain price; I recently added to my pre-existing position in Cisco.
I understand that John Chambers can see a storm coming and still plan a picnic. Despite his sometimes overly optimistic views, he has proven he can lead a company with huge market share and hold on to that market share. Personally, I prefer a CEO that is very optimistic. Mr. Chambers belongs in the main event.
Have you ever seen wrestling when one guy comes out with all the pyrotechnics and a fabulous costume? He usually has a great name like "The Crusher" and sometimes is pitted against a guy with no pyro and no costume named "Bob." Bob usually doesn't do very well.
Dell Computer is "The Crusher" of computer makers, the rest are Bobs.
Dell's direct made-to-order business model has proven to be the most successful model among the box makers.
have fallen behind the curve and it will be virtually impossible to catch up.
The drama surrounding Carly Fiorina's departure from H-P gave Dell the opportunity to gain a foothold in the printer business. Dell shipped 5.2 million printers in its last fiscal year. This allows Dell to be in the lucrative recurring revenue of ink, paper and supplies. Dell has already shown they can deliver, I believe they will soon own this market as well.
Certain things you don't bet against: Tiger Woods, "The Crusher," and Michael Dell. Mr. Dell has proven he can be successful in virtually anything he chooses. I think Dell is a compelling story on Mr. Dell alone. However, the numbers give you an even better reason to buy.
Dell has more than $12 billion in cash and investments, with a tiny amount of debt. It has free cash flow of almost $4 billion. Dell has created a great brand loyalty with the consumer (along with the stock, I own two Dell computers). Yet around 85% of Dell's sales are from government and corporate accounts that have higher margins.
Dell has forward earnings projected at $1.88 per share. If Dell can live up to its promise of 19% earnings growth, then you will have a tech leader with a P/E-to-growth ratio under 1; that is a gift. Even if they grow at a more reasonable rate of around 15%, it is still a buy.
When you have the opportunity to buy a company with a dominant market share that has tons of cash, little or no debt, and is priced to buy, you buy it. Throw in the fact that the guy who built the company will continue to run it, you buy it
Dell, like Cisco, is a leader in its field with the ability to continue to dominate. You can't go wrong with The Crusher or The Main Event.
As originally published, this column contained an error. Please see
Corrections and Clarifications.
At the time of publication, Layfield was long Cisco and Dell, although holdings can change at any time.
A former All-American offensive lineman at Abilene Christian University, John Layfield played professional football for the then-Los Angeles Raiders and later in the World League. After wrestling in Japan, Mexico and Europe, Layfield arrived in the WWE in the mid-1990's. A former WWE Champion, JBL was a featured wrester at WrestleMania 21 and can also be seen on Friday Night SmackDown! on UPN. Outside of the ring, 'JBL' is a self-taught investor who was recruited to write a personal finance book, "Have More Money Now," which was released in the summer of 2003. He has been seen on finance shows on CNN and Fox News Network. He is co-chairman of the Smackdown Your Vote! Campaign and he has joined both the USO and Armed Forces Entertainment (AFE) for tours through Iraq, Afghanistan and other Middle East countries. He regularly visits Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval hospitals to meet with wounded troops.