With the majority of Unilever’s (LSE: ULVR) (NYSE: UL.US) revenue being derived from emerging markets, the performance of the biggest emerging market of them all, China, really matters. So, with China having reduced its interest rate in recent weeks (and being rumoured to be contemplating further reductions), Unilever could stand to benefit in 2015 and beyond, as Chinese consumers are more heavily incentivised to spend rather than save.
Clearly, Unilever remains a highly appealing consumer goods company and has a hugely diverse and attractive stable of brands. And, with its bottom line forecast to rise by 7% next year, it seems to be performing relatively well despite slower-than-expected growth from the developing world. As such, investor sentiment could improve during the course of the next year, as the market once again focuses on the superb long-term potential on offer at Unilever, rather than short-term challenges facing the developing world.
While many of its sector peers are set to offer 3.5%+ yields in 2015, Royal Bank of Scotland (LSE: RBS) is taking a much more cautious stance on shareholder payouts. For example, it is expected to pay out just 4.2% of earnings as a dividend next year, which is likely to be one of the lowest payout ratios in the FTSE 100.
This, though, could be a sound move, since it will allow RBS to retain a greater proportion of profit so as to further improve its capital position and reinvest in the business moving forward. In turn, this could boost its long term performance and help to lift sentiment in the stock as we move through 2015.
Of course, RBS passed the recent Bank of England stress test, which should give investors in the bank a degree of confidence. And, with RBS having a price to earnings (P/E) ratio of just 10.1, it could be ripe for an upward rerating adjustment over the next 12 months.
Shares in SABMiller (LSE: SAB) have outperformed the FTSE 100 by 13% during the course of 2014 and, like RBS and Unilever, could do so again in 2015. That’s because SABMiller offers an extremely reliable growth profile that could become even more in-demand if the present uncertainty among investors continues.
For example, over the last five years SABMiller has grown its bottom line in each year and has averaged a growth rate of 12% per annum during the period. This excellent track record looks set to continue with growth of 9% being forecast for next year. And, with SABMiller being relatively likely to meet its forecasts due to a robust, defensive business model, investor sentiment in the stock could improve further and push its share price higher during the course of 2015. As a result, it could beat the performance of the wider index next year.
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Peter Stephens owns shares of Royal Bank of Scotland Group and Unilever. The Motley Fool UK owns shares of Unilever. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.