Don’t Tell Mom: 3 “Sin Stocks” for High Income

Gambling, drinking and smoking: your mother warned you against all three habits. But you don’t have to partake in these vices to profit from them. High-quality stocks in the “sin” category generate rock-solid income driven by persistent consumer demand. Go ahead, bite the apple.

Sin stocks are particularly attractive now, as the overvalued broader stock market starts to falter under the pressure of tighter Federal Reserve policy and worsening geopolitical uncertainty.

Companies that make money from human vice tend to be correction and recession resistant. Fed Chair Janet Yellen this week indicated that the central bank would adopt a more hawkish stance toward interest rates, a signal that the party for the overall market could be over. And let’s face it: saber rattling between the United States and a nuclear-armed North Korea, as underscored this week by President Trump’s confrontational speech at the United Nations, prompts people to seek escapism.

For long-term gains, you should invest in companies that provide products and services that people always want, in good times or bad. And people around the world crave gambling, booze and cigarettes. Quite often, they’re indulging in all three vices simultaneously.

The following three stocks offer high dividend yields, buttressed by robust cash flows, sustainable payout ratios and billions of dollars in profit. These picks may be sin stocks but their income is heavenly — and they all trade at attractive valuations relative to their peers.

Income, baby…

Dean Martin sang a song about nocturnal vices called: “Who’s Got the Action?” When it comes to generating high income, the answer could have been Las Vegas Sands (NYSE: LVS).

Las Vegas Sands owns and operates some of the most lucrative names in the gambling industry, including the Venetian Macao Resort Hotel, Sands Cotai Central, the Parisian Macao, the Four Seasons Hotel Macao, Cotai Strip, the Plaza Casino, and the Sands Macao, in Macao, China; and Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

The company also owns and operates the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino and the Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino on the iconic Las Vegas Strip; the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada; and the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Gambling is a global growth phenomenon, as the following chart shows:

Gambling is a vice that goes back to the beginning of recorded human history. The ancient Romans, in particular, were avid gamblers whose card and dice games permeated the culture. Modern China has taken up the habit, with ferocity.

Fueled by the Chinese infatuation with games of chance, the Middle Kingdom’s special administrative region of Macau has burgeoned into a gambling Mecca roughly seven times the size of Las Vegas, in terms of annual revenue.

That puts Las Vegas Sands and its Macao properties smack dab in the center of China’s gambling craze. A great way to profit from the expanding middle class in emerging markets is by investing in gambling in Asia. The region is home to increasingly affluent consumers who are bitten by the gambling bug.

Las Vegas Sands’ holdings along the popular Cotai strip should prove reliable cash cows over the long haul. The company’s foothold in the area is a high-margin asset that’s practically a license to print money. The barriers to entry are high, which impedes competition, and free-spending tourists continually pump fresh cash into casino coffers. And as any gambler should know, the odds always favor the house.

The average analyst expectation is that Las Vegas Sands will reach earnings growth over the next five years of 2.80% on an annualized basis. The current dividend yield is a hefty 4.53%. The stock’s trailing 12-month price-to-earnings ratio (P/E) is 24.8, which is lower than the average trailing P/E of 25.8 for its industry.

One bourbon, one scotch, one beer…

The holidays seem to start earlier every year and although it’s only September, the Christmas decorations already are appearing in stores.

Gluttonous consumption of beer, wine and liquor are integral to the holidays. As the season gets underway, distilled spirits maker Diageo (NYSE: DEO) is poised for intoxicating returns.

What do people tend to do around the holidays? Well, frankly, drink too much. That’s all good news for London-based Diageo, the world’s largest producer of spirits and a major producer of beer and wine.

Diageo’s stable of famous brands reads like the menu of a Rat Packer’s bountifully stocked bar:

Johnnie Walker (the world’s #1 blended scotch whiskey), Crown Royal, Bushmills, Seagram’s VO, and J&B whiskies; Smirnoff (the world’s best-selling vodka), Popov, Ketel One and Cîroc vodkas; Gordon’s, Tanqueray, Gilbey’s, Booth’s, and Nolet’s gin; Captain Morgan, Bundaberg, Pampero, Cacique, Myers’s, and Zacapa rum; Guinness (the world’s #1 stout), Harp, Red Stripe, and Kilkenny beer; and Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur (the world’s best-selling liqueur). The list goes on.

I’m encouraged by Diageo’s strategic plan to enhance efficiency, cut costs and expand into emerging markets, where newly affluent middle-class consumers thirst for the prestigious brands under Diageo’s banner.

Diageo leads the U.S. spirits market, accounting for roughly 19% of volume share. The company has embarked on a sustained acquisition spree around the world, which cushions it against regional or country-specific difficulties and positions it to exploit population growth.

The average analyst expectation is that Diageo will reach earnings growth over the next five years of 9.20% on an annualized basis. The current dividend yield is 3.00%. The stock’s trailing P/E is 24.8, a deep discount to the industry’s average trailing P/E of 62.2.

Smokin’ dividends…

Instead of using the word sin, think of Altria Group (NYSE: MO) as an “addiction” stock. As such, the company’s products are recession-resistant and should experience resilient demand even during the economic downturn that many analysts are predicting for 2018.

Altria has leading positions in cigarettes as well as smokeless tobacco. Its portfolio of products sports four premium brands that are market leaders: Black & Mild, Copenhagen, Marlboro and Skoal. The company also produces and sells varietal and blended table wines, and sparkling wines.

Altria has increased its dividend every year for the past eight years and generated $4 billion to $5 billion in free cash flow over the past three years, making it a reliable income machine.

The growing popularity of e-cigs is a major tailwind for Altria that shows no signs of abating. Philip Morris International (NYSE: PM) and Altria are engaged in a partnership to sell electronic cigarettes. Philip Morris received exclusive rights to sell Altria’s e-cigarettes outside the U.S., whereas Altria got exclusive rights in the U.S. to sell other Philip Morris-manufactured tobacco products.

One of the surest ways to reap investment profits is to latch onto a fast-rising trend that’s still on the upward slope of the bell curve. The craze for e-cigs fits the bill.

The average analyst expectation is that Altria will reach earnings growth over the next five years of 7.95% on an annualized basis. Over the past five years, Altria has posted 7%-9% dividend growth. The current dividend yield is a hefty 4.24%. MO’s trailing P/E is 8.1, a value compared to the industry’s average trailing P/E of 13.7.

The stock market comes in shades of gray; none of the companies you’ve included in your portfolio are purely “good.” People widely engage in the aforementioned activities, all of which happen to be legal. You might as well profit. Mom doesn’t need to know.