Forget the expensive valuations and keep buying Diageo plc, Bunzl plc & Vodafone Group plc!

Today I’m making the case for three ‘expensive’ FTSE 100 stars.

Toast terrific returns

In a period of significant deflation in the food and drink segment — not to mention slumping consumer spending power in ‘growth regions’ — the value of companies carrying significant brand power cannot be underestimated.

In this regard I believe beverages giant Diageo (LSE: DGE) is worth its weight in gold.

Through shrewd investment in hit labels like Baileys whiskey/liqueur, Guinness stout and Johnnie Walker whisky, Diageo is still managing to keep revenues nudging higher despite the impact of severe currency headwinds.

Indeed, a steady stream of product innovations across Diageo’s key labels — as well as an improving presence in the red-hot ‘premium’ segment, such as the likes of Cîroc vodka — promises to light a fire under earnings growth once current trading difficulties subside.

On top of this, I believe Diageo’s rising global presence also merits a premium rating, a quality that provides it with excellent exposure to increasingly-wealthy emerging market customers while also reducing its dependence on one or two regions.

Given these factors, I reckon the drinks play is an irresistible stock candidate regardless of its slightly-heady P/E rating of 20.9 times for fiscal 2016.

A defensive darling

Like Diageo, support services play Bunzl (LSE: BNZL) carries splendid defensive qualities that justify a P/E rating above the FTSE 100 average of 15 times, in my opinion.

While the drinks giant can rely on splendid brand power to keep powering revenues forward, the ubiquity of Bunzl’s product range — from first aid kits and hard hats right through to plastic cutlery — enables earnings to reliably shoot higher regardless of the wider economic climate.

Indeed, the essential nature of Bunzl’s services has enabled the bottom line to grow at an annualised rate of 7.4% during the past five years. And with the firm embarking on ambitious acquisitions to improve its global footprint, I see no reason for this trend to screech to a halt any time soon.

This view is shared by the number crunchers, and a 6% earnings advance is currently predicted for 2016 . Sure, this may result in a conventionally-expensive P/E multiple of 21 times. But I believe Bunzl’s ability to keep grinding out profits growth regardless of wider economic pressures merits such a premium.

Mobile master

I reckon that Vodafone (LSE: VOD) is one of the finest long-term growth picks out there thanks to its extensive investment programme of recent years.

The telecoms titan’s Project Spring organic spending scheme has worked wonders in finally turning around its dragging fortunes on the continent, while acquisitions like those of Kabel Deutschland and Spain’s Ono have given it a foothold in the rapidly-expanding ‘quad-play’ entertainment services arena.

But it’s the firm’s galloping progress across Asia, the Middle East and Africa that really promises to supercharge earnings growth this year and beyond, areas where data demand in particular continues to explode. Indeed, Vodafone has put 3G and 4G at the heart of its investment in these destinations.

The City expects earnings to shoot 22% higher in the year to March 2017, reflecting Vodafone’s improving success in both established and emerging markets. And while this may still result in a top-heavy P/E ratio of 39.1 times, surging mobile phone usage across the world should see this multiple steadily topple in the coming years.

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Royston Wild has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Diageo. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.