Will United Technologies Help You Retire Rich?

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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.

United Technologies (NYS: UTX) has one of the most diverse sets of businesses you'll ever find under one roof. Although it's arguably best known for its Pratt & Whitney aircraft engine segment, United Technologies is also the company behind Carrier HVAC products, Otis elevators, Sikorsky military helicopters, and Hamilton Sundstrand power and flight-control products, among others. With all these businesses, can United Technologies keep it together and make investors happy? Below, we'll revisit how United Technologies 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 United Technologies.

Factor

What We Want to See

Actual

Pass or Fail?

SizeMarket cap > $10 billion$76.4 billionPass
ConsistencyRevenue growth > 0% in at least four of five past years4 yearsPass
 Free cash flow growth > 0% in at least four of past five years4 yearsPass
Stock stabilityBeta < 0.91.04Fail
 Worst loss in past five years no greater than 20%(28.5%)Fail
ValuationNormalized P/E < 1815.87Pass
DividendsCurrent yield > 2%2.3%Pass
 5-year dividend growth > 10%12.8%Pass
 Streak of dividend increases >= 10 years17 yearsPass
 Payout ratio < 75%32.2%Pass
    
 Total score 8 out of 10

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

Since we looked at United Technologies last year, the company has kept its eight-point score. The stock has also been relatively flat in a lackluster market since last March.

The big move for United Technologies this year was its acquisition of Goodrich (NYS: GR) . The pickup gives United Technologies a much bigger piece of the commercial aviation market, as Goodrich's aerospace components and systems complement Pratt & Whitney's focus on engines. With Boeing (NYS: BA) in particular seeing record sales and a huge competitive advantage over its rival Airbus, United Technologies stands to benefit from having more of its products in the planes that Boeing makes.

However, the company can't afford to rely too much on Boeing. Last year, Boeing awarded the engine contract for its 737 MAX line to a General Electric (NYS: GE) joint venture. That sent United Technologies shares downward.

United Technologies also faces the threat of defense cuts. For instance, just as Lockheed Martin (NYS: LMT) has taken hits on its F-35 fighter project due to cost overruns, United Technologies could get hurt if budget cuts reduce the project's scope, as it makes the engines for the F-35.

For retirees and other conservative investors, United Technologies' modest but growing dividend doesn't appear to be at risk at all, but the company's growth prospects are getting cloudy. If the defense budget ever gets clarified, then United Technologies could be in a much better position to advance going forward.

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.

If you really want to retire rich, no one stock will get the job done. Instead, you need to know how to prepare for your golden years. The Motley Fool's latest special report will give you all the details you need to get a smart investing plan going, plus it reveals three smart stocks for a rich retirement. But don't waste another minute -- click here and read it today.

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

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 Lockheed Martin. 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 - 2012 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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