This High-Yielding Cash Cow Buys Life Insurance Policies and Waits…

Cash is king. You’ve heard it before.

So it makes sense that companies with growing free cash flow could thrive in just about any environment. This screen looks for the money — and the dividends.

First, companies need to have cash on the balance sheet equal to at least 5% of total assets. Then, for every dollar they generate in sales, they have to have generated $0.05 a share or more in free cash flow in each of the past three years. They also need to have generated growing free cash flows for each of the past three years. Finally, the companies also need to yield at least 5% and be able to cover the dividend with earnings.

Company (Ticker) Yield EPS DPS P/E
Qwest Communications (NYSE: Q) 8.8% $0.44 $0.32 7.94
Communication Systems (NYSE: JCS) 5.1% $0.85 $0.48 12.68
Life Partners Holdings (Nasdaq: LPHI) 5.4% $1.98 $0.63 9.25

While these are all interesting companies, Life Partners Holdings (NASDAQ: LPHI) is the one in a sweet spot and has “Cash Cow” written all over it. This $275 million company is in the life settlements business, which is a bit of a euphemism.

Here’s how it works. If a person with a life-insurance policy needs cash, he or she can sell it to Life Partners for a deep discount to the face of the policy. Life Partners pays the policy holder based on the life expectancy of the seller, future premiums due on the policy, loans against the policy and market conditions.

Once a deal is reached, the company takes over. It makes any and all payments to the insurance company until the insured person dies, at which point Life Partners collects the death benefit.

This industry is rapidly growing. The market for life settlements grew from a $2 billon industry in 2001 to $16 billion in 2008. Since its incorporation, Life Partners has purchased more than 6,000 policies totaling more than $2.2 billion.

The company has been around since 1991, and it went public on the Nasdaq in 2000. Since its first distribution in February 2002, the company has grown its dividend +146.3%. Today it stands at 50.5% of the company’s $1.98 earnings per share, or $1.00 per year. The dividend is paid quarterly.

Revenue has also grown at an impressive rate. Five years ago, the company posted $8.2 million in revenue for the year. In February 2009, that  number had grown +1163.4% to $103.6 million. Life Partners saw its net income grow by +996.7% from $2.5 million to $27.2 million.

Fortune listed Life Partners as the No. 1 fastest-growing small public company in 2009 for the company’s stellar return on investment (ROI) from 2006 to 2009. During the period, it returned +121% to investors.

This business is extremely recession resistant. After all, the worse the economy, the more people likely seek out these types of services. Going forward there’s one big thing in the company’s favor. More people are living longer, and many will need more cash than they have available through retirement accounts and social programs.

It’s a recipe for continued cash flow, earnings and dividend growth.