While the economy has impacted every firm, some are clearly doing better than others. Here are seven firms that have saddled up to ride out this recession.
Apple loyalists, many of whom would cut their budget for food and water before buying a PC, are not only buying the products, they are vocal advocates of them. Apple's March quarter showed 9% year over year revenue growth and an operating margin of 20.4%, one of highest ever. More impressively Apple sold 3.8 million iPhones in the first quarter to easily beat the earnings estimates. In short, the iPhone means iProfit.
When people try to find bargains, where do they turn? The internet, of course. That makes Google a winner. And even though those searches aren't turning into customers as often, Google still beat the consensus earnings estimate in their recent quarter. Net income for the three months ended March 31 totaled $1.42 billion, or $4.49 per share, compared with $1.31 billion, or $4.12 per share, a year ago. Apparently, Google in the search space means "won with many zero's after it."
McDonald's is still lovin' it as people turn to the hamburger giant as they tighten their wallets and increase the speed of their lives. The coffee has improved, and an entire meal can be had for the mocha/frappe/whatchamacallit you used to drink when you had money. First-quarter results were reported with global comparable sales up 4.3%, operating income increased 5% in constant currency and EPS reached $0.87, a 17% increase in constant currency. Besides what better excuse than a recession to dive into some of those tasty McDonald's french fries?
Even when budgets got tight, Wal-Mart's balance sheet bulged because in difficult times, they get to keep their existing customers, and gain customers that were repositioned from the downturn. There April sales numbers solidly beat monthly same store sales estimates, growing 5%, compared to estimates of around 2%. Sam Walton's goal of making quality goods affordable works in any economic condition. In this case, "always low prices" means always a good business. (Learn more about a company's balance sheet; check out Reading the Balance Sheet.)
Those addicted to nicotine will continue to pay the price (in many ways) regardless of economic condition. Excluding one-time items, Altria earnings per share rose to 39 cents from 37 cents per share a year earlier in the first quarter. Tobacco firms may not worry about economic downturns, but they will be worried about pending legislation in congress that will give the FDA jurisdiction to regulate tobacco products. So while they may be riding out the recession easily, they still just may see their profits go up in smoke.
6. Colgate-Palmolive Company
Even in a recession, brands still mean something, even better if they are low cost brands. While there is some pressure on higher-priced brand name staples, for most people skimping on laundry detergent or toothpaste is like letting the recession win. This shows in the recent strong earnings of reported net income and diluted earnings per share of $507.9 million and $.97, respectively, in the first quarter of 2009 and the company feels comfortable with its estimates going forward.
7. Abbott Labs
Solid advancements in medical science that result in people having better heath care generate returns in all market conditions. After all, people still get sick and still need health care products no matter what the economy is doing. Abbott Labs continues to develop products and increase profits. First-quarter earnings ending March 31 came in at $0.73 per share, reflecting 15.9% growth, and $0.03 above the mid-point of Abbott's previous first-quarter guidance range. That will make shareholders feel better.
The Bottom Line
Companies that have solid brands, loyal customers and great products can not only ride out this recession, they may just be positioning themselves to gallop into increased profitability as we turn the corner. (Find out where to turn when looking to invest in a tumultuous market. Read Industries That Thrive On Recession.)