Consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) continues to demonstrate why it may be one of the highest-quality companies in the world. J&J, the world's largest maker of healthcare products, reported a 9% uptick in sales in the 2009 fourth quarter. Net profit was 79 cents per share, down 20% due to one-time restructuring charges. Net income from operations would have been $1.02 absent such charges. The full year earnings number came in at $4.40 a share on sales of $62 billion, down 5% and 3% respectively.

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The Bigger Picture
Johnson and Johnson may well be one of the most recession resistant companies in the world. Despite this, the company couldn't avoid a sales decline in 2009, even though a 3% drop would be the envy of most other businesses. Before the impact of the Great Recession, J&J had had a decades long streak of reporting both an increase in sales and earnings. And while the company's current size prevents it from nailing down the stunning growth figures it produced in its early years, J&J continues to have a bright long-term future. The company's products - things like Tylenol, Band-Aids and baby shampoo - have nearly unlimited growth potential in international markets. (For more, see Recession-Proof Your Portfolio.)

As Good as It Gets
Like any company, J&J has its competitive pressures. Its pharmaceutical products have to contend with generic competition and in 2009, the company's medical devices division was down due to a drop in elective surgical procedures. But the company's long-term appeal is one found in only a handful of names like Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) and Procter and Gamble (NYSE:PG). These businesses have products with continuous global appeal supported by brands that control markets. And today, a quality name like Johnson and Johnson trades for less than 14 times earnings and yields 3%. Compare this with iconic retailers Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) and Tiffany's (NYSE:TIF), both wonderful brands, but with valuations of 22 and 33 times earnings and half the dividend yield.

Bottom Line
Despite the market's performance in 2009, the economy is still very fragile. But products like J&J's are often at the top of consumer lists, so this company stands a better chance than most of weathering this storm with its armor intact. (For more, see 3 Secrets Of Successful Companies.)

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