Don't underestimate the growth potential of these FTSE 100 giants

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CRH

We'd probably all like to invest in companies that combine the stability of big-caps with the growth potential of small-caps. But as investors, many of us have been taught to believe that this combination just doesn't exist. Elephants don't gallop, said the late Jim Slater.

Except occasionally, they do. Regular acquisitions and organic growth have enabled a handful of FTSE 100 stocks to deliver growth of more than 135% over the last five years. In this article, I'll take a closer look at two of these big-cap growth heroes.

Building blocks for further gains

Sales at cement group CRH (LSE: CRH) rose by 6% to EUR20.4bn during the first nine months of 2016, compared to the same period last year. The group's earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose by 14% to EUR2.4bn over the same period.

These figures have been compiled to exclude the impact of acquisitions, and highlight organic sales growth at both CRH and at the 17 businesses it's acquired or invested in so far this year. The group's actual sales have risen by 22% so far in 2016.

Dublin-based CRH says that it has seen "limited" impact from Brexit in the UK, with strong trading in most European and American markets. Full-year EBITDA is expected to be more than EUR3bn, an increase of 35% on last year's results.

CRH's particular focus over the last year has been to expand its operations in the Americas. If President-elect Trump fulfils his promise to boost infrastructure spending, this move may prove to be well-timed.

CRH shares currently trade on a 2016 forecast P/E of 20, with a prospective yield of 2.1%. Earnings per share are expected to rise by 19% in 2017, giving a forecast P/E of 17.

Although these figures are attractive, CRH is a heavily-cyclical business. I think the shares are probably fairly valued for now.

A more defensive choice?

Distribution and outsourcing group Bunzl (LSE: BNZL) is perhaps the ultimate serial acquirer. Hardly a month goes by without the firm announcing a small acquisition somewhere in the world. Bunzl's business is to supply non-food consumable items -- such as packaging and cleaning supplies -- to businesses.

Bunzl operates globally. While it would feel the impact of a global recession, I suspect the diversity of the group's customer base would limit the impact of all but the worst downturns.

Bunzl's defensive qualities have made it a popular choice among investors looking for safe yield. That's one reason why the shares have risen by 146% over the last five years, despite profits only rising by about 85%.

One consequence of this steep increase in valuation is that despite strong dividend growth, Bunzl's dividend yield is just 2.1%. So are the shares a buy?

The shares have fallen by 16% over the last three months, pulling back from a record high of 2,587p earlier this year. The stock now trades on a forecast P/E of 19.5, which seems reasonable given the group's track record of growth. However, this valuation provides no real protection against a possible slowdown. For that reason, I plan to wait and see if the recent decline continues.

The ultimate income growth buys?

Investing in stocks such as Bunzl is all about long-term income growth and capital gains. Bunzl's management has a superb track record, but it's not the only company in the FTSE 100 with these attractive qualities.

Our expert analysts have identified a further five blue chip stocks they believe have the potential to deliver similar long-term gains.

For full details of all five stocks, download this exclusive FREE report today. There's no obligation and you'll receive your copy in just a few minutes. To get started, just click here now.

Roland Head has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.