Love Serenades and New Flings

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By Vitaliy Katsenelson

I sang love serenades for Abbott Labs’ (ABT) stock for a long time. Call me materialistic, but my love for stocks is not ‘til death do us part,’ it is conditional of fundamentals staying intact and of valuation – it has to be undervalued. Abbott Labs’ fundamentals have improved over the last couple of years – it sold its medical device unit to General Electric (GE) at a great premium and it “stole” a stent business from Guidant playing on Boston Scientific’s (BSX) urgent need to close the deal. Abbott’s management have proven the company to be a very shrewd operator. However, Abbott did what any good stock will do at some point (hopefully) – it appreciated and became fully valued. Though I still love the company, I had to say goodbye to Abbott’s stock. Hopefully, I’ll be able to buy it in the future on my terms, at a lower price.

I found a new ‘fling’ – Glaxo Smithkline (GSK) – Abbott’s worthy replacement. GSK reminds me of Abbot’s stock about two years ago: decent (very similar to ABT) growth prospects ahead (earnings growth of about 7-8% a year) further helped by a growing industry, a strong balance sheet, great return on capital of close to 40%, fat 20% plus profit margins, and a competitive moat around its business that rivals the size of Lake Michigan. All that coupled with great valuation of about 14x earnings and 3.3% dividend yield. On top of all that it comes with an added bonus, its dividend is paid in pounds and converted to dollars – if the dollar decline continues (my expectation), its earnings and dividends will rise in US dollars.

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Vitaliy N. Katsenelson, CFA, is Chief Investment Officer at Investment Management Associates in Denver, Colo. He is the author of Active Value Investing (Wiley) and The Little Book of Sideways Markets (Wiley). His books were translated into eight languages. Forbes Magazine called him "The new Benjamin Graham".

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