Is Valspar the Right Stock to Retire With?

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Now more than ever, a comfortable retirement depends on secure, stable investments. Unfortunately, the right stocks for retirement won't just fall into your lap. In this series, I look at 10 measures to show what makes a great retirement-oriented stock.

In the long run, everyone needs paint for their homes, and that seems to make paint-maker Valspar (NYS: VAL) a smart, stable long-term play. But with the housing market having been weak lately and consumers struggling to make ends meet, the company still has to work hard in a competitive industry to get homeowners to open their wallets. Below, we'll take a look at how Valspar does on our 10-point scale.

The right stocks for retirees
With decades to go before you need to tap your investments, you can take greater risks, weighing the chance of big losses against the potential for mind-blowing returns. But as retirement approaches, you no longer have the luxury of waiting out a downturn.

Sure, you still want good returns, but you also need to manage your risk and protect yourself against bear markets, which can maul your finances at the worst possible time. The right stocks combine both of these elements in a single investment.

When scrutinizing a stock, retirees should look for:

  • Size. Most retirees would rather not take a flyer on unproven businesses. Bigger companies may lack their smaller counterparts' growth potential, but they do offer greater security.
  • Consistency. While many investors look for fast-growing companies, conservative investors want to see steady, consistent gains in revenue, free cash flow, and other key metrics. Slow growth won't make headlines, but it will help prevent the kind of ugly surprises that suddenly torpedo a stock's share price.
  • Stock stability. Conservative retirement investors prefer investments that move less dramatically than typical stocks, and they particularly want to avoid big losses. These investments will give up some gains during bull markets, but they won't fall as far or as fast during bear markets. Beta measures volatility, but we also want a track record of solid performance as well.
  • Valuation. No one can afford to pay too much for a stock, even if its prospects are good. Using normalized earnings multiples helps smooth out one-time effects, giving you a longer-term context.
  • Dividends. Most of all, retirees look for stocks that can provide income through dividends. Retirees want healthy payouts now and consistent dividend growth over time -- as long as it doesn't jeopardize the company's financial health.

With those factors in mind, let's take a closer look at Valspar.

Factor

What We Want to See

Actual

Pass or Fail?

SizeMarket cap > $10 billion$3.16 billionFail
ConsistencyRevenue growth > 0% in at least four of past five years4 yearsPass
 Free cash flow growth > 0% in at least four of past five years3 yearsFail
Stock stabilityBeta < 0.90.86Pass
 Worst loss in past five years no greater than 20%(17.4%)Pass
ValuationNormalized P/E < 1815.94Pass
DividendsCurrent yield > 2%2.1%Pass
 5-year dividend growth > 10%10.2%Pass
 Streak of dividend increases >= 10 years30 yearsPass
 Payout ratio < 75%32.2%Pass
    
 Total score 8 out of 10

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Total score = number of passes.

With eight points, Valspar has just about everything a conservative investor wants to see in a stock. But for a big drop in free cash flow in the most current year, Valspar would be one of the rare small companies to meet every non-size related test on the list.

The paint industry has had its share of obstacles to overcome lately. In Valspar's most recent quarter, sales grew sharply, but higher costs forced the company to raise prices. The resulting drop in demand cut margins and brought net income down 10%. And with DuPont (NYS: DD) and Kronos Worldwide (NYS: KRO) raising prices of titanium oxide, a key component for paint production, costs could rise still higher.

Of course, that's a trend that affects not only Valspar but also competitors PPG Industries (NYS: PPG) and Sherwin-Williams (NYS: SHW) , both of which either have or expect in the near future to raise prices. But Valspar has also struggled after losing its retail deal with Wal-Mart (NYS: WMT) .

For retirees and other conservative investors, the company's resilience even in the face of all these challenges should give them confidence about the stock. Eventually, housing will recover, and when it does, Valspar should be in prime position to take advantage. Those who have the stock in their retirement portfolios should see their patience rewarded.

Keep searching
Finding exactly the right stock to retire with is a tough task, but it's not impossible. Searching for the best candidates will help improve your investing skills, and teach you how to separate the right stocks from the risky ones.

Add Valspar to My Watchlist, which will aggregate our Foolish analysis on it and all your other stocks.

If you want to retire rich, you need to be confident that you've got the basics of your investment strategy down pat. See if you're on track by following the13 Steps to Investing Foolishly.

At the time this article was published Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Wal-Mart. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Sherwin-Williams and Wal-Mart, as well as creating a diagonal call position in Wal-Mart. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

Copyright © 1995 - 2011 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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