Electricity network manager National Grid (LSE: NG) is arguably the greatest stock out there for searching for reliable, if not necessarily explosive, earnings expansion in the near term and beyond.
Obviously National Grid is dependent on the UK to drive earnings, even though the firm also boats operations in the US. But the need to keep Britain’s pylons and power bases up and running remains unchanged regardless of broader economic pressures, giving the firm splendid revenues visibility.
And unlike its power peers, which may also suffer from declining electricity demand should the UK economy endure severe Brexit pains, National Grid doesn’t face overwhelming competitive pressures like Centrica and SSE.
On top of this, the colossal amounts of capital National Grid is ploughing into its infrastructure should also underpin solid earnings growth in the years ahead — National Grid has vowed to invest £16bn in the UK alone during the eight-year RIIO regulatory period running to 2021.
Against this backcloth, the City expects National Grid to generate earnings growth of 1% and 2% in the years to March 2017 and 2018 respectively.
Consequent P/E ratings of 16.5 times and 16.2 times may nip above the FTSE 100 average of 15 times. But I reckon National Grid’s unrivalled defensive qualities still makes it a premier pick for nervous investors.
Like the utilities sector, the addictive nature of cigarettes has long made the likes of British American Tobacco (LSE: BATS) a no-brainer for investors rattled by macroeconomic or geopolitical turbulence.
The tobacco segment has lost some of it is shine more recently, however. Intensifying legislative action, from plain packaging requirements to public bans, is of course amplifying public concerns about the health hazards associated with British American Tobacco’s products.
But cigarette manufacturers are also facing revenues pressure due to the thriving black market. Indeed, latest UK government data released this month showed that 13% of all cigarettes, and 32% of hand-rolling tobacco, is smuggled.
While these issues are sending total cigarette volumes lower, British American Tobacco is able to overcome these problems thanks to the blockbuster brand power of products like Lucky Strike and Dunhill. Volumes of these brands climbed 9.8% during January-September, helping the firm’s share of the total cigarette market rise by 40 basis points.
British American Tobacco’s colossal cartons are flying off shelves across the globe, the firm noting share improvements in territories like Russia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Turkey, Japan, Chile and Colombia between January and September.
And last week’s $47bn bid to buy the 57.8% stake it doesn’t hold in North American tobacco titan Reynolds will give the British business a stronger grip in another key marketplace.
Besides, the London manufacturer is throwing huge sums at next-generation technologies — namely the e-cigarette market, a sector already serviced through its Vype brand — to guarantee long-term revenues growth.
These factors are expected to send earnings at British American Tobacco 17% and 14% higher in 2016 and 2017 respectively
Sure, these projections may create somewhat-expensive P/E ratings of 18.8 times and 16.5 times for these years. But I reckon British American Tobacco’s extensive global footprint and growing stable of market-leading brands more than justify these toppy ratings.