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Think a second stock market crash is coming? The FTSE 100 share I’d buy now

I’d like to consider the FTSE 100 shares I’d buy now if I was worried about a second 2020 stock market crash.

The first crash — the most rapid value destruction for 30 years — was an extremely worrying and stressful time for investors.

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For me, it meant years of careful planning and prudent saving went out of the window. My portfolio of FTSE 100 shares, funds and AIM stocks tumbled. On paper, I lost many thousands of pounds.

Thankfully, I had faith in the companies in my Stocks and Shares ISA and SIPP. So I didn’t sell in a panic. And most have now climbed nicely in price. But I feel investor sentiment turning sour again.

FTSE 100 falls

It could be a Covid-19 second wave, or a realisation that the economic outlook is too bleak to ignore.

Whatever prompts another 2020 stock market crash, I want my portfolio to be well set up with to deal with it.

And so the FTSE 100 shares I’d buy now have to be outperforming their rivals, in traditionally defensive sectors, and offering reliable, affordable dividends.

Stay United

For the best results for my portfolio, I’d look for two things. First, companies that pay above the FTSE 100 average of a 3.2% yield. And second, those that have been steadily increasing dividends over a number of years.

United Utilities (LSE:UU) offers a 4.6% yield now, with dividends per share improving every year since 2011. That’s two ticks in the box.

What about that price tag, then? At a P/E ratio of 14.4, it’s about average, somewhere in the middle of the FTSE 100. Not expensive, not a fire-sale bargain.

CEO Steve Mogford’s plan is to keep upping those dividend payouts. And there are other reasons this is definitely a FTSE 100 share I’d buy now.

Strong dividend growth

Only 55% of FTSE 100 firms have kept their dividends in place since the start of the pandemic and United Utilities is one of them.

In fact, the water utility giant actually increased its dividend per share in May! Another tick.

An 8.6% hike in underlying operating profit from 2020 full-year results will help future payouts to loyal shareholders too.

Mogford has good budget management in place and has improved dividend cover in the last few years. It now stands at 1.48 times earnings. That’s a sensible amount of leeway to keep dividends affordable.

Look ahead

The United Utilities strategic plan up to 2025 gives me more hope too. Targeting 13% cuts to customer bills might not sound like good business sense. After all, it means they make less money.

But the fact is that retention is key to building long-term revenue growth. I like that Mogford is making strong moves in that direction, another reason it’s a FTSE 100 share I’d buy now.

Since 2015, United Utilites has re-invested £350m into the business to improve repair speeds and keep customers happy. More good sense. And there’s millions more in the budget to cut pollution by 20%, cut water leaks to reduce costs, and improve flooding plans.

A reminder: our long-term aim is to profit from the stock market. But the most basic principle that underpins that goal is to not lose money. For me, that means seeking out FTSE 100 shares I’d buy now that are more stable than their rivals.

To me, United Utilities is the VW Golf of the FTSE 100. Safe, reliable and popular for good reason.

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Tom Rodgers has no current position in the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. 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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