Is Diageo a FTSE 100 forever stock?

Diageo plc’s (LON: DGE) robust balance sheet and the growing consumption of alcohol make it a forever stock for me.

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When I learned that 99.7% of Warren Buffett’s immense wealth was created after the age of 52, I was astonished. The world’s most recognisable investor hadn’t even hit his stride till middle age. This fact highlights the importance of an extended time horizon while investing.

In my opinion, the amount of time an investor can spend staying in the market is just as important as her ability to minimise risks and maximise returns. Maintaining a steady rate of return for extended periods of time is the key to benefitting from the power of compounding.

With this in mind, investors might want to turn their attention to the so-called ‘forever stocks’ – companies that can generate decent returns forever. And the best way to spot a forever stock is to start with companies that have seemingly been around forever. One such company is spirits giant Diageo (LSE: DGE).

Created by merging Guinness and Grand Metropolitan in the 90s, the company can trace its roots back to 1759. Since its initial public offering in 1995, the stock has delivered a 655% return in price appreciation alone. With dividends included, the total shareholder return would be a lot higher.

With an average beta of 0.43 over the past three years, Diageo has been a remarkably steady and lucrative bet for long-term shareholders. But can the stock keep going at the same rate forever? Here’s a look at the dynamics of Diageo’s industry and the company’s underlying fundamentals.

Drinking culture

Consuming alcohol on a regular basis may not seem as popular as it once was. Investigators from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, in Toronto, Canada, and the Technische Universität Dresden, in Germany found that per capita alcohol consumption across Europe declined 12% between 2010 and 2017.

However, while Europeans and North Americans are drinking less, Asian consumers are more than offsetting this trend. Over the same period, alcohol consumption in Asia grew by 34%, while the global rate of consumption is up 70% over the past 20 years.

However, while Europeans and North Americans are drinking less, Asian consumers are more than offsetting this trend. Over the same period, alcohol consumption in Asia grew by 34%, while the global rate of consumption is up 70% over the past 20 years.

Diageo has been diversifying its operations over the same period and the company now derives 20.7% of its revenue from Asia, according to its latest annual report. Diageo is a global conglomerate, which means the escalating rate and premiumisation of alcohol consumption across the world will continue to benefit the company for the foreseeable future.

Fundamentals

At just under 2%, the firm’s dividend yield is far from impressive. However, the company has a manageable debt burden (about 50% of total assets), a lucrative rate of return on equity (27%), robust interest coverage ratio (10.6), and a low payout rate (54.5%).

Bottom line

There seems to be plenty of reason to believe the alcoholic beverages industry will continue to expand at a steady rate for the foreseeable future. Diageo, meanwhile, is the industry’s largest conglomerate with a diverse portfolio of brands backed by a robust balance sheet and attractive margins.

The dividend yield may be low at the moment, but the company’s financial strength and the industry’s long-term outlook make DGE one of the most dependable dividend stocks on the FTSE 100. I believe it fits the description of a ‘forever stock’.

Should you invest, the value of your investment may rise or fall and your capital is at risk. Before investing, your individual circumstances should be assessed. Consider taking independent financial advice.

Vishesh Raisinghani has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Diageo. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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