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Will Kimberly-Clark Help You Retire Rich?

Tuesday - 3/26/2013, 9:15pm  ET

Now more than ever, a comfortable retirement depends on secure, stable investments. Unfortunately, the right stocks for retirement won't just fall into your lap. As part of an ongoing series, I'm looking today at 10 measures to show whether Kimberly-Clark makes a great retirement-oriented stock.

Consumer-products companies have always made solid choices for retirement portfolios, and Kimberly-Clark has stood out from its competition lately because of its consistent growth and smart decisions, even in a fairly tough environment of high raw-materials costs. But with shares getting pricey, is Kimberly-Clark still a good pick for a retirement portfolio? Below, we'll revisit how Kimberly-Clark does on our 10-point scale.

The right stocks for retirees
With decades to go before you need to tap your investments, you can take greater risks, weighing the chance of big losses against the potential for mind-blowing returns. But, as retirement approaches, you no longer have the luxury of waiting out a downturn.

Sure, you still want good returns, but you also need to manage your risk and protect yourself against bear markets, which can maul your finances at the worst possible time. The right stocks combine both of these elements in a single investment.

When scrutinizing a stock, retirees should look for:

  • Size. Most retirees would rather not take a flyer on unproven businesses. Bigger companies may lack their smaller counterparts' growth potential, but they do offer greater security.
  • Consistency. While many investors look for fast-growing companies, conservative investors want to see steady, consistent gains in revenue, free cash flow, and other key metrics. Slow growth won't make headlines, but it will help prevent the kind of ugly surprises that suddenly torpedo a stock's share price.
  • Stock stability. Conservative retirement investors prefer investments that move less dramatically than typical stocks, and they particularly want to avoid big losses. These investments will give up some gains during bull markets, but they won't fall as far or as fast during bear markets. Beta measures volatility, but we also want a track record of solid performance, as well.
  • Valuation. No one can afford to pay too much for a stock, even if its prospects are good. Using normalized earnings multiples helps smooth out one-time effects, giving you a longer-term context.
  • Dividends. Most of all, retirees look for stocks that can provide income through dividends. Retirees want healthy payouts now, and consistent dividend growth over time -- as long as it doesn't jeopardize the company's financial health.

With those factors in mind, let's take a closer look at Kimberly-Clark.

Factor

What We Want to See

Actual

Pass or Fail?

Size

Market cap > $10 billion

$36.6 billion

Pass

Consistency

Revenue growth > 0% in at least four of five past years

4 years

Pass

 

Free cash flow growth > 0% in at least four of past five years

3 years

Fail

Stock stability

Beta < 0.9

0.31

Pass

 

Worst loss in past five years no greater than 20%

(21.0%)

Fail

Valuation

Normalized P/E < 18

20.49

Fail

Dividends

Current yield > 2%

3.4%

Pass

 

5-year dividend growth > 10%

6.9%

Fail

 

Streak of dividend increases >= 10 years

41 years

Pass

 

Payout ratio < 75%

65.8%

Pass

       
 

Total score

 

6 out of 10

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Total score = number of passes.

Since we looked at Kimberly-Clark last year, the company has lost a point, as its earnings multiple perked up considerably. Shareholders aren't complaining about that, though, as the stock has risen 30% over the past year.

Conservative investors have long gravitated to consumer stocks because of their defensive characteristics and strong brand-loyalty. With the popular Kleenex brand, as well as its Scott line of paper towels and bathroom tissue, Kimberly-Clark has been more than able to hold its own, even against larger competitors.

But times have been increasingly tough for Kimberly-Clark and its peers. High costs for raw materials to make paper products and other necessities have put pressure on margins throughout the industry, and many companies have had to take steps to cut costs. Colgate-Palmolive , for instance, said late last year that it would reduce its global workforce by about 6% in order to keep its wide margins intact.

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