Waste Management (WM) is one of the largest waste disposal companies in North America. Over the years Waste Management as acquired many of its smaller competitors, resulting in a larger, stronger company.
What about Growth?
According to Waste Management's most recent conference call, growth has been steady. Although numbers have not been particularly impressive, management currently offers guidance of about 1-1.5% growth in revenues for 2013, the majority of which being a result of cost cutting efforts. Despite low revenue growth, Earning per share growth should be higher, due to the large share repurchasing program. Prospects for the future are decent as Waste Management is becoming a strong player in the renewable energy field. Many of Waste Management's "green energy" strategies have proven stronger than their startup competitors.
How Safe is the Dividend?
Waste Management's dividend is its strongest asset as an investment. What Waste Management may lack as a true growth stock, it makes up for as an income play with its great dividend. WM is currently yielding around 3.4% or .365 per share. There has been some talk as to whether or not the dividend is safe, but I certainly think it is. Reducing or removing a dividend can be detrimental to a company's stock, so management tends to only increase the dividend if they are confident that they can continue to payout. Waste Management has a history of paying a dividend, as well as regular increases. WM has had some increased costs of late, but is working to keep costs down. One of the largest increasing variable costs is diesel fuel for their trucks. Waste Management is a leader in transitioning from diesel fuel to natural gas run trucks, which will result in large cost reductions and fossil fuel emissions.
Long term opportunity?
Long term I see Waste Management as a company who will continue to utilize all opportunities they have available to them. Thinking into the distant future, as increasing amounts of waste are produced; less landfill space will be available, causing garbage collection fees to increase. This also creates opportunities for the company to capitalize on, such as recycling and using waste to create clean energy. Recently Waste Management has announced that they will be working to help create more environmentally friendly consumer packaging of various consumer products. Financial ratios show a price to earnings ratio of 19.6 and a PEG ratio (Price to earnings in relation to their growth rate) of 1.12. These financial ratios show that Waste Management is currently fairly priced (based on a price of $42.75).
Waste Management executives do appear to be working in the correct direction, as illustrated by the stock repurchase program and significant cost cutting measures. Currently the dividend is at 3.4%, which also makes this equity attractive to those seeking large dividend yields. However, Waste Management's growth for the coming few years is not overly attractive, but the nice dividend helps offset the lack of significant appreciation in the stock price.