I recently read the book “The Snowball” by Alice Schroeder. I have been a great follower of anything on Buffett for years, and this book definitely provided additional insight in the way the world’s richest investor thinking process.
I have long advocated the idea that Buffett is a closet dividend growth investor. After all, the perfect companies that he typically tries to invests in share the following characteristics:
1) Strong Competitive Advantages, Wide Moats, Strong Brand Names
2) A loyal customer group, willing to pay up for the product/service
3) High Returns on equity
4) Generating excess cashflow
5) Minimal capital requirements
One such perfect business that Buffett was able to purchase in 1972 was See’s Candy. The company was purchased for $25 million, when sales were $30 million, operating profits $5 million and the capital required to operate the business was $8 million. The company was selling 16 million pounds of chocolate in 1972.
Fast forward 35 years, and See's Candy was selling 31 million pounds of chocolate in 2007. This represented a 2% annual growth in sales. Sales were $383 million, while pre-tax profits were $82 million. While the required capital to run the business had increased to $40 million, the business had been able to generate $1.35 billion in pre-tax earnings. In essence, almost $1.30 billion in pre-tax profits were the excess cash flow, which were distributed to Berkshire for Warren to manage.
In fact, this strategy of purchasing businesses which generate cash flows in excess of the business reinvestment requirements, are actively sought after by Buffett. One needs to look no further than the stock portfolio which the Oracle of Omaha manages. Some of the largest holdings include strong dividend stocks such as Coca-Cola (KO), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Procter & Gamble (PG) and Wal-Mart (WMT) to name a few. All of these cash machines have been able to generate sufficient earnings to raise distributions to shareholders for several decades in a row. This cash is then used by Buffett to purchase more stocks or more businesses.
In essence, this strategy is similar to what dividend growth investors like to do. By creating a diversified portfolio of world class blue chip dividend paying stocks, investors are essentially creating a cash machine that would throw off enough cash to buy more shares in quality companies or to provide for in retirement.
The Procter & Gamble Company (PG) provides consumer packaged goods in the United States and internationally.This dividend king has raised distributions for 56 years in a row. Yield: 3.40% (analysis)
McDonalds Corporation (MCD), together with its subsidiaries, franchises and operates McDonalds restaurants primarily in the United States, Europe, the Asia Pacific, the Middle East, and Africa. This dividend aristocrat has raised distributions for 35 years in a row. Yield: 2.90% (analysis)
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (WMT) operates retail stores in various formats worldwide. This dividend aristocrat, has rewarded shareholders with a dividend hike for 38 years in a row. Yield: 2.70% (analysis)
Chevron Corporation (CVX), through its subsidiaries, engages in petroleum, chemicals, mining, power generation, and energy operations worldwide. This dividend achiever has hiked distributions for 25 years in a row. Yield: 3.40% (analysis)
PepsiCo, Inc. (PEP) engages in the manufacture and sale of snacks, carbonated and non-carbonated beverages, dairy products, and other foods worldwide. This dividend aristocrat has raised distributions for 40 years in a row, and currently has a better valuation than arch rival Coca-Cola (KO). Yield: 3.10%(analysis)
For more lists of quality dividend stocks, which should be core holdings a in dividend portfolio, check this list.
Full Disclosure: Long JNJ, PG, MCD, WMT, CVX, KO, PEP
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