Investing

Are Dividends Enough to Lure Investors to Consumer Staples?

Using the Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR Fund (NYSEAMERICAN: XLP) as a benchmark, 2022 has not been particularly kind to consumer staples stocks. The fund’s share price is down about 1.8% and the total return is down about 1.3%. Over the past 12 months, however, the share price has added 10.5% and the total return is 13.2%.

Analysts at UBS Global Research’s Evidence Lab have just announced some additions and changes to their coverage of four consumer staples stocks, based largely on valuation. UBS’s outlook for these stocks (and whether investors should add them to their portfolios) also includes some comments on the economy and markets as a whole.

The stock getting the heartiest handshake was Mondelez International Inc. (NASDAQ: MDLZ). UBS assumed coverage of the snack foods giant with a Buy rating and a price target of $73. At a recent price of around $62.40 a share, the upside potential is almost 17%. Analyst Cody Ross wrote that Mondelez “sits at the forefront of our Packaged Food framework given that its advantaged portfolio exposure, innovation-driven market share gains, and cost cuts have driven accelerated organic revenue growth, margin expansion, and earnings momentum.”

Mondelez also has strengthened its position in developed markets, including the United States, where it has added new customers and converted them into repeat customers “at a higher rate.”

So far in 2022, the share price is down 6%. For the past 12 months, however, shares are up 6.3%, and the 52-week range is $57.63 to $69.47. Mondelez pays an annual dividend of $1.33, for a yield of 2.25%, the lowest of any of the four stocks we look at here. The company’s total return for the past year is 8.37%.

UBS initiated coverage on Kellogg Co. (NYSE: K) with a Buy rating and a $73 price target as well. Cody Ross called the company’s supply chain and input cost headwinds “transitory” and went on to say that his upbeat case “is driven by the strategic decisions management made prior to COVID to drive sustainable 2%-plus organic sales growth over the [long-term], coupled with our expectation for [Kellogg] to achieve 80 bps of [gross margin] expansion in 2023.”

Kellogg stock is down about 1.3% so far in 2022 and about 0.3% lower for the past 12 months. The 52-week price range is $59.54 to $68.60, and at a share price of around $63.60, the upside potential is 15.8%. Here is where Kellogg’s annual dividend of $2.31, yielding 3.65%, pays off for investors. The company’s total return over the past year is 3.42%.

The UBS team initiated coverage of General Mills Inc. (NYSE: GIS) with a Neutral rating and a $69 price target. With the stock trading at around $67.40, the upside potential is about 2.4%. Analyst Ross does not expect the company to reach its long-term goals, but he does think that General Mills can achieve 4% earnings per share growth over the long term, much better than the 2% two-year compound annual growth rate for the pre-COVID-19 time frame. The stock trades above its historical averages, according to Ross, and UBS believes that the “[long-term calculation] is already reflected in the stock, leaving the risk/reward fairly balanced at the current price.”

General Mills stock is up about 0.1% for the year to date and 9.15% higher over the past 12 months. The 3.02% dividend yield (annual rate of $2.04) adds up to a total return for the past year of 12.76%.

Campbell Soup Co. (NYSE: CPB) was initiated with a Sell rating and a price target of $42. The shares trade at around $43.90. Ross wrote: “[Campbell] operates a disadvantaged portfolio relative to peers, with 50% of sales tethered to categories that generate little to no growth, above-average elasticity, and growing Private Label pressure.” The COVID-19 pandemic “masked these headwinds, as category growth and market share gains accelerated. As mobility improves, we expect structural challenges to re-emerge, pressuring organic growth, forcing the company to increase reinvestment.”

The stock trades up about 1.1% for the year to date but down 14.5% over the past 12 months. Even the generous 3.37% dividend yield ($1.48 annually per share) cannot have much positive influence on investors. The stock’s total return for the past year was negative 11.7%.

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