Buffett's strategy is to look for stocks with strong business models and high overall potential as companies. His investment philosophy? In the short run, the market is a popularity contest while in the long run, it's a weighing machine. In short, he thinks like a dividend investor. He seeks out those companies that are competent at generating solid top and bottom line growth, and with the potential to generate massive cash flows. In a nutshell, he looks for stocks that make money as businesses and that are comparatively well-insulated from new rivalry or technological obsolescence. Once he locates this type of opportunity and takes ownership in these quality companies through key investments, he holds the stock for a long-term play, while seeking a constant stream of income from dividends combined with the capital gains these quality stocks offers.
Using this strategy, Buffett's portfolio has outperformed the S&P 500 in 24 out of the last 30 years. Buffett's recent filing with the SEC reaffirms his successful image. Berkshire Hathaway has raised their stake in stocks that are offering dividend growth potential with steady price appreciation gains. These are Suncor Energy (NYSE:SU), Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM), VeriSign (NASDAQ:VRSN), U.S. Bancorp (NYSE:USB), and The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation (NYSE:BK). Their top investments include some of the most well-liked blue chips, including Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO), International Business Machine (NYSE:IBM), American Express Company (NYSE:AXP) Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ)
Below, I'll discuss two of Buffett's picks that I like the most for dividend investors. These are Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE:WFC), and Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE:WMT). I strongly believe that these stocks have the ability to sustain returns for investors.
How Wells Fargo & Company is a Safe Investment
Wells Fargo & Company is a nationwide, diversified, community-based financial services company. They provide investments, banking, insurance, mortgage, and consumer and commercial finance through over 9,000 stores and 12,000 ATMs, as well as online. The company seeks to satisfy all its customers' financial needs and to help them succeed financially.
To accomplish this vision, Wells Fargo's business strategy is to increase the number of its financial products so that customers' needs are anticipated and fulfilled. Its cross-sell strategy, diversified business model and the breadth of its geographic reach help growth in both strong and feeble economic environments. In addition to expanding its product line, Wells Fargo is constantly grabbing opportunities to grow by gaining new customers in extended markets and increasing market share in many businesses. These successful strategies continue to help solidify the company's position as a leader in the financial services sector.
With a diversified business model, Wells Fargo has been generating record top and bottom line growth. At the end of the recent quarter, it has generated record earnings of $5.6 billion. Net income and diluted earnings per share increased at double-digit rates (13%) compared with the past year quarter. Further, this is the company's 15th successive quarter of EPS growth and 10th successive quarter of record EPS. With such record top and bottom line growth, its cash generating potential is also expanding. Recently, Wells Fargo increased its dividend to .30/share, representing an increase of 5 cents over the past quarter. At the moment, its payout ratio is only at 28%, offering a lot of room to make further increases in dividends. Its cash flows demonstrate a similar trend. In TTM, its free cash flows are at $18.9 billion while dividend payments are only at $6.4 billion. This allows Wells Fargo to not only make more dividend payments but also offers room to aggressively work on a buyback program and to invest in growth opportunities.
How Wal-Mart Stores is a Safe Investment
Wal-Mart Stores operates retail stores in various formats under 69 banners around the globe. Its operations are comprised of three business segments: Walmart U.S., Walmart International and Sam's Club.
Wal-Mart's priority is to grow top line sales to improve returns in Walmart International and leverage expenses. To do this, the company is launching new merchandise and making aggressive investments in price through numerous rollbacks and better in-stock levels. Further, it is looking to improve even in places where it is already doing well. The company recently assessed its portfolio and made important strategic conclusions on its current operations. Following this endeavor, the company is closing approximately 50 under-performing stores in Brazil and China. Wal-Mart will autonomously own and operate the wholesale format in India and will finish its franchise contract with Bharti Retail for the retail business. The company has also agreed to the sale of its Vips restaurants in Mexico.
With this strategy of streamlining its operations, Wal-Mart's recent report shows consolidated net sales of $114.9 billion, an increase of $1.8 billion. It had strong operating income across all segments, with Wal-Mart U.S. growing almost 6%, Sam's Club increasing above 9%, and the International segment up 8%. Consolidated operating income was standing at $6.3 billion, an increase of 3.6%. Its strong top and bottom line growth enhances its cash generating potential, which further allows the company to return significant cash to shareholders. During Q3, it has returned $3.2 billion to shareholders through dividends of $1.5 billion and share repurchases of $1.7 billion. Its free cash flows provide complete coverage to dividend payments. Though the company has been making massive increases in its dividends, still, its payout ratio of 43% offers a lot of room to increase these. All things considered, Wal-Mart is a safe haven for retirees with safe dividends and steady price appreciation.
Buffett has been holding positions in these dividend paying stocks for years, if not decades, in order to minimize volatility and increase returns. I recommend that investors follow a similar strategy in order to shield their investments and grow their portfolios at a modest rate. As dividend-paying stocks represent corporations that are considered financially firm and mature, the share prices of these companies gradually increase over time while shareholders benefit from periodic dividend payments. With Buffett's wildly successful track record, both his overall strategy and these companies in which he has invested so heavily are well worth a close look.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.