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Blue Chip Stocks In Focus: Procter & Gamble

Published by Bob Ciura on July 27th, 2017

When it comes to dividends, few companies can match Procter & Gamble (PG). P&G’s list of dividend accolades is long, and impressive.

It is a Dividend Aristocrat, a group of 51 stocks in the S&P 500 Index, with 25+ years of consecutive dividend increases. You can see all 51 Dividend Aristocrats here.

In addition, it is a Dividend King, a group of just 19 stocks with 50+ consecutive years of dividend increases. You can see all 19 Dividend Kings here.

P&G has increased its dividend for 61 consecutive years. Going back even further, it has paid a dividend for 127 consecutive years. At its current share price, P&G has a 3.1% dividend yield.

The combination of 100+ years of dividends and a 3%+ dividend yield makes P&G a blue-chip stock, in our view. We have compiled a list of stocks with these two qualities. You can see the full list of blue chip stocks here.

This article will discuss why P&G should be considered a blue-chip.

Business Overview

P&G is a diversified, global consumer staples company. It operates around the world, with more than half of annual revenue derived from outside North America. It also has significant exposure to high-growth emerging markets, which make up more than one-third of P&G’s annual sales.

PG Overview

Source: 2016 Annual Report, page 2

This is an unusual climate for P&G. It has drastically restructured its business over the past few years. P&G has divested a number of product lines that were either slowing down, or were in decline.

The major asset sales include:

Over the course of its transformation, P&G went from a massive portfolio of 170 brands, down to 65 brands.

The remaining 65 brands encompass 10 core categories, which P&G believes to be the foundation of its future growth. Importantly, P&G held onto its strongest brands, such as Tide, Pampers, and Crest.

These are the brands that carry high margins, with potential for growth up ahead.

PG Portfolio

Source: 2017 Deutsche Bank Global Consumer Conference, page 5

The turnaround made progress in fiscal 2016. While P&G’s net sales declined by 8% in 2016, divestments and the strong U.S. dollar played a major role.

As its portfolio becomes more efficient, P&G’s cash flow and earnings continue to rise. Operating earnings-per-share increased 23% for 2016.

P&G’s portfolio actions will allow it to retain its competitive advantages and pricing power, while freeing itself up to invest more heavily in future growth.

Growth Prospects

P&G’s earnings growth will be the result of three key factors:

Last quarter, organic revenue increased 1%. P&G expects full-year organic revenue growth of 2%-3%. A return to organic revenue growth is a good sign that the turnaround is working.

Another key catalyst for earnings growth, is cost-cutting. The company has taken more than $10 billion out of its cost structure since fiscal 2012.

This has drastically improved margins over the past few fiscal years.

PG Margin

Source: 2017 Deutsche Bank Global Consumer Conference, page 11

From 2013-2016, P&G expanded core operating margin by more than five full percentage points.

As a result, P&G’s core operating profit margin currently exceeds 20%. According to the company, it now has the third-highest margin in its peer group.

Further cost cuts are in store. P&G believes it can reduce expenses by another $10 billion, over the next five years.

Lastly, P&G will increase earnings from share repurchases. P&G expects to utilize more than $14 billion this year for share reductions.

These initiatives had had tangible results this year. Core earnings-per-share increased 12% last quarter, or 15% excluding currency.

For the full fiscal year, P&G expects adjusted earnings to increase at a mid-single digit rate from last year.

Competitive Advantages & Recession Performance

P&G has several competitive advantages. The first is its strong brand portfolio. P&G has several brands that generate $1 billion or more in annual sales.

The 65 brands that will represent the future of the company, hold leadership positions in their respective categories. These products are associated with high quality, and consumers will pay a premium for them.

This is true, even during recessions. P&G’s financial performance during the Great Recession is as follows:

P&G enjoyed strong earnings-per-share growth in 2008, and experienced only a mild dip over the next two years.

It remained highly profitable, in one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression.

The other major catalyst for P&G is scale. As one of the largest consumer products companies in the world, P&G benefits from the ability to squeeze as many costs out of its operating structure, as possible.

For example, by the end of the current fiscal year, P&G expects its restructuring to have reduced non-manufacturing roles by 35%.

A lean business model helps P&G increase margins, which then results in earnings-per-share growth.

Valuation & Expected Total Returns

P&G had core earnings-per-share of $3.76 per share in fiscal 2016. Based on its current share price, the stock has a price-to-earnings ratio of 23.8.

This is a slight discount to the S&P 500 Index, which has an average price-to-earnings ratio of 24.7 right now.

P&G is not overvalued, since it is a very high-quality company with a strong dividend. That said, there is likely only limited room for further expansion of the valuation multiple.

As a result, future returns will not likely be generated by an expanding price-to-earnings ratio. Fortunately, P&G will still generate returns, from earnings growth and dividends.

A potential breakdown of P&G’s future earnings growth is as follows:

Using this scenario, total returns would reach 8%-11% per year, moving forward.

P&G’s dividend is a significant contributor to its total returns. This should come as no surprise, as the company has paid a dividend for more than 120 years.

The current dividend payout is sufficiently covered by earnings. Based on fiscal 2016 results, P&G has a payout ratio of approximately 73%. This leaves enough room for future dividend increases, likely in the low-to-mid single digits.

Final Thoughts

P&G has experienced more change in the past year, than many investors would normally associate with a blue chip. After all, blue chips typically have a reputation for steady, consistent growth.

However, investors should feel good about where P&G is right now, and where it is going from here. The company became a bit of a lumbering giant in recent years, but has shed several brands that were weighing it down.

For investors interested in owning a high-quality business with a reliable dividend, P&G is a strong choice.

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