The dawn of a new college football season is just a couple of weeks away, and that means fans of the sport are likely in for another season of controversy and excitement created by the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). Unlike every other college sport, the highest level of college football does not use a playoff system to determine a champion. That leads to plenty of controversy and plenty of irked fans, but it also means the college football season lasts nearly as long as the NFL's regular season.
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More games equals more money for the NCAA, its member universities and companies like Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS) and CBS (NYSE: CBS), two of college football's primary broadcasters. For investors, there are plenty of opportunities beyond CBS and Disney in terms of profiting from the upcoming college football season.
Take a look at the BCS bowl games sponsors. The Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar Bowls, along with the BCS title game, are sponsored by some blue chip names that you might want to consider adding to your portfolio. Let's have a look at them.
Are You In Good Hands?
Insurance giant Allstate (NYSE: ALL) sponsors the Sugar Bowl, but the stock's performance has been anything but sweet over the past three months. The shares have tumbled 13% in that quarter, and that's in spite of a solid earnings report delivered earlier this month that saw Allstate beat Wall Street estimates. The company said it is writing more auto, homeowner and personal liability policies, and that should be a positive for the stock going forward.
Allstate maintained its quarterly dividend at 20 cents per share in July, and investors seemed to be less than impressed as the yield is just average at 2.7%. Still, the stock is inexpensive at less than seven times forward earnings and less than book value.
Big Bank, Big Game
Citigroup (NYSE: C), the third-largest U.S. lender by assets, sponsors the Rose Bowl, also known as the grandaddy of them all. It sure has been a long time since Citi shares had such lofty status, and the August 11 sell-off sent the stock below the $4 level. The problem with Citi's stock, beyond the fact that the U.S. Treasury is selling its massive stake in the bank, is the low price tag. Many investors eschew stocks that trade for less than $5, and many fund managers can't acquire stocks that trade below $10. Remember, this stock is down 90% since 2007.
Citi recently paid $75 million to the SEC to settle charges that the bank wasn't exactly truthful about its subprime mortgage exposure. With that issue behind the bank and Vikram Pandit doing an admirable job restoring Citi to profitability, the stock could be viewed as having more potential upside than downside.
A Sweet New Sponsor
The Orange Bowl used to be sponsored by FedEx (NYSE: FDX), but the second-biggest package shipping firm in the world ended that relationship earlier this year. Reese's will be the game's new sponsor, and that means Hershey (NYSE: HSY) is the play here. Hershey's second-quarter earnings report brought news of a 35% drop in profits due to restructuring charges and the write-down of its Indian joint ventures.
On the bright side, Hershey said revenue jumped 5% to $1.23 billion, and the company has been a prodigious cost cutter. Plus, it's hard to ignore the fact that Hershey is a low-beta, defensive stock that could be prized by investors looking for some shelter in a volatile market environment. Not to mention, the Hershey brand is one of the most well-known in the U.S.
Tostitos, one of PepsiCo's (NYSE: PEP) best-selling snacks, is the Fiesta Bowl sponsor, and since the Fiesta Bowl is also the site of the next national championship game, Tostitos will sponsor both games. That gives Pepsi the opportunity to do a lot of advertising in some cushy time slots. Forget the games for a minute, because Pepsi is a real treat for dividend investors. The company raised its dividend by 7% in March, matching the increase from rival Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO), but Pepsi trumped its rival by adding up to $15 billion for buybacks.
In truly impressive fashion, Pepsi raised its dividend again by 7% in July. Pepsi has sharply outperformed Coke in the past six months, adding 8% compared to Coke's 4% run. Pepsi is another low-beta, defensive name that investors would do well to consider in a market where taking on risk isn't being rewarded.
Bottom Line: One Champion
While the BCS champion may be controversial this year, our list of BCS stocks has one clear winner: Pepsi. The company's dividend track record is too compelling to ignore, and its management team may be the best of the companies mentioned here. (For related reading, see How And Why Do Companies Pay Dividends?)
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