Today I’ll be discussing the outlook for consumer goods company Reckitt Benckiser (LSE: RB), water services provider United Utilities (LSE: UU), and multinational distribution and outsourcing business Bunzl (LSE: BNZL). Can these companies really give your portfolio the stability it needs in these uncertain times?
Consumer goods giant Reckitt Benckiser is one of those firms that hardly anyone outside the investment world has heard of, and yet you will find almost every UK home laced with their products. I’m talking about Dettol, Cillit Bang, Nurofen, Vanish, Veet and Gaviscon, to name but a few. In fact, Reckitt (yes, we’re on first name terms) is the world’s largest producer of household goods and cleaning products, and also owns many top health and personal care brands.
The Slough-based consumer goods giant has been a consistent performer since the start of the millennium, with revenues and profits rising steadily, whilst rewarding loyal shareholders with higher dividend payouts each and every year. If there’s one thing better than a nice dividend, it’s a nice rising dividend. However, this kind of quality comes at a price, and Reckitt trades at a premium forward price-to-earnings ratio of 24 for this year.
Furthermore, the shares are trading at near all-time highs which means that although analysts expect dividend payouts to be hiked again this year, prospective yields have fallen back to just 2.2%. Nevertheless, I believe the shares are a good long-term buy for their low-risk defensive quality.
Safe as houses
United Utilities is my local water company, so I’m a little biased. But the attractions remain. The people of the North West of England will always need water, wastewater and sewerage services. Sure, people will always complain that water services charges are too high, but have you ever tried filling a bath using only bottled water? So United Utilities is operating a virtual monopoly, with no direct competition, meaning reliable low-risk income for the foreseeable future.
The Warrington-based utilities play is the UK’s largest listed water company and provides water services to around 7 million people and 400,000 businesses in the North West of England. Discounting the possibility of mass migration from the region, I believe those customers aren’t going anywhere, and they will begrudgingly continue to pay for their water services. United Utilities will in turn continue to accept their money and pay their shareholders a handsome inflation-proof dividend yielding over 4%. This is an income play that should be safe as houses.
Bunzl has it all wrapped-up
Like Reckitt Benckiser, Bunzl is another gigantic multinational business that most people have probably never heard of. Amongst other things it supplies food packaging, hygienic clothing, and paper and plastic disposables in 29 countries. Pretty boring really, but so what? Wouldn’t you rather invest in something boring and be rich, than lose your money on some exciting start-up that’s just gone down the pan?
Bunzl has a strong market position and a good track record of growth through acquisitions. Indeed, much like our friend Reckitt, this FTSE 100 firm has demonstrated consistent growth in revenues and profits for at least fifteen years. Steady growth is likely to continue, with the company offering progressive dividends to its army of boring-but-wealthy shareholders. In my view, another high quality low-risk defensive play to sure up your portfolio.
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Bilaal Mohamed has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Reckitt Benckiser. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.