As a rule, most investors are utterly preoccupied with earnings.
That's understandable, of course. At the end of the day, the goal of any business is to turn a profit. The problem comes when we focus on the bottom line to the exclusion of everything else.
At best, this offers an incomplete view of how a company is performing. At worst, it can mask underlying weakness.
In response to the last recession, businesses of all shapes and sizes streamlined their operations to cut costs and preserve cash. Many did an outstanding job of erasing red ink from the books. The deeper they slashed, the more money they pocketed.
At first, this delighted investors. They saw growing earnings each quarter and cheered. But eventually, they began to realize that the phantom "growth" was nothing more than belt-tightening. In many cases, revenues were actually flat or sometimes even falling.
You can boost your household disposable income by eliminating the $100 weekly maid service and the $100 weekly lawn care service -- but you'd much rather get a $200 weekly pay raise.
Suspending all research and development (R&D) expenditures might look great for a while, until the company begins to fall a few steps behind competitors. Likewise, eliminating the marketing department might save millions, but end up costing even more when customers stop coming in the door.
As they say, you must spend money to make money.
Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with cost-cutting initiatives. There's something to be said for a lean operation. But a business can't expand by contracting.
So if you want to find thriving companies that are in a position to distribute more cash to investors, then it all starts on the top line.
After all, before you turn the first dollar of profit, somebody has to come in the door and buy something.
With all this in mind, I went out in search of healthy companies with strong -- and, in some cases, accelerating -- sales growth. Specifically, I screened for businesses with annual revenue growth of at least 20% in each of the past two fiscal years and a healthy outlook for the remainder of 2013.
Of course, you can't look at sales in isolation either. So I also looked for 8% or better growth in operating income and a minimum 3.5% dividend yield. Here are a few notable finalists.
|Company||2012 Revenue Growth||2013 Estimated Revenue Growth||Yield|
|Calumet Specialty Prod.
|Health Care REIT
|Main Street Capital
|Sunoco Logistics Partners
|Brookfield Infr. Partners
|Golar LNG Partners
|Starwood Property Trust
While industries as varied as telecom and farm products are represented, most of the candidates were concentrated in a handful of sectors, including midstream master limited partnerships (MLPs), business development companies (BDCs) and real estate investment trusts (REITs).
These groups are not strangers to High-Yield Investing. Each is well represented in my portfolio.