Exciting growth stocks may garner most of the financial news headlines these days, but long-term investors who have been around the block know that a balanced retirement portfolio should contain not only sexy tech stocks but also dependable, non-cyclical stocks that can pay out hefty dividends year after year for decades to come.
As dependable as they come
One near the top of my list in this category is consumer goods giant Unilever (LSE:ULVR). It's true that other consumer goods firms such as Kraft and Procter & Gamble have run into trouble of late due to customers turning away from big brand name goods for trendier/cheaper options.
But Unilever has been impressively resilient in the face of this trend due to a high proportion of its sales coming from developing markets like Brazil, China and Indonesia, as well as a willingness to react positively to these fast-growing upstarts by purchasing them, as it did with Dollar Shave Club, or simply co-opting their ideas.
In the first half of 2018, these characteristics helped boost the group's underlying sales by 2.7% year-on-year in constant currency terms. This is decent growth from a multi-billion-pound turnover business and means Unilever's management is confident it will once again achieve annual sales growth of 3%-5%.
In addition to top line growth, management has been focused on margin improvements of late and in H1 increased underlying operating margins by 80 basis points to 18.6%, within striking distance of its 20% medium-term target.
Rising sales and margins are providing the company with the financial firepower to invest in long-term growth and richly reward shareholders. This means a rising dividend that currently yields a respectable 3%, as well as a massive EUR6bn share buyback programme that is half way completed after being announced in April.
All told, I think Unilever is a perfect retirement portfolio share to hold, with a management team focused on long-term growth that is fuelling increases to already impressive shareholder returns.
An under-appreciated growth and income star
I view Experian (LSE: EXPN) in much the same light. The company's massive competitive moat from it being the world's largest credit bureau provides non-cyclical sales, high pricing power, and tremendous shareholder returns.
And far from being a low-growth business, it is constantly rolling out new services that utilise the records it has on hundreds of millions of people and businesses. In the first quarter of its financial year, these new services and strong demand for traditional offerings led to revenue rising 8% globally.
Looking ahead, there's plenty of potential growth on the table for Experian as its core US division is still growing strongly with revenue up 11% in Q1 on top of expansion in growing markets like Latin America and Asia.
And with impressive and growing operating margins of 27.7% last year, the company is generating plenty of cash that can be returned to shareholders for many years to come. While the company's headline dividend yield of 1.78% isn't the most impressive that's because management favours share buybacks with the $293m spent on dividend payments last year significantly less than the $581m spent on buybacks.
So, with a highly dependable business model that offers high growth, margins and shareholder returns, I reckon Experian could be a fantastic stock to put in a retirement account and hold for many years to come.
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Ian Pierce has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK owns shares of and has recommended Unilever. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Experian. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.