Unsung, consistent stories are mighty hard to find. Almost all the great ones get so bid up so fast that they are per se "sung" -- meaning they are crowded trades, to use the parlance of Wall Street.
Which is why this week has become quite fun for me, because three ultra-consistent companies that report -- Priceline (PCLN) , Burlington Stores (BURL) and Broadcom (AVGO) -- haven't missed in ages, yet somehow are regarded as having one foot out the disappointment door.
I have highlighted Priceline many times in its historic jaunt from $200 to $1700 in these last six years because it has expanded well beyond cheap air flights to hotels, cruises and rental cars with its fabulous name-your-own-price mantra. So many times we have heard that this model would be killed, or that competition from Expedia (EXPE) or Trip Advisor (TRIP) would do it in. Nope, didn't happen. When Zika raged, or ebola, or SARS, or terrorism, it's bookings didn't skip a beat. Not that long ago I heard that Airbnb would be the next thing to wipe PCLN out. All it did was expand the market so Priceline could make more money. It low-keyed is premium purchase of Open Table a few years ago -- it is hard to find on the site -- but I like that it blocked out another competitor.
It's just a very well-run company.
Burlington Coat Factory used to be one of the most inconsistent purveyors of clothing out there. It's off-priced merchandise is treasure-hunt oriented, with spectacular values like the winter coats that are priced at 75% off, or an Easter dress for under $25. How many retailers can basically say about their quarter (and I'm paraphrasing here): "We are pleased to report better-than-expected fourth-quarter results that included strong sales growth, positive comp sales, expansion in gross margin and a 19% rise in adjusted diluted earnings per share. Among the top performers were home -- like everyone else -- but also beauty, men's and athletic shoes and handbags."
Those were some of the weakest categories for the full-priced outfits, which tells you that Burlington got some terrific close-out deals and passed them on to the consumer.
Finally, I don't know how much more positive I could be on Broadcom. Once again, this semiconductor and communications company blew away the numbers. Once again, the Street had to revise numbers up. Once again, it gushed money to the point where Suntrust said it was spewing a "tsunami "of cash. And once again, it further diversified from just being an Apple (AAPL) supplier. AAPL is a holding Action Alerts PLUS.
Oh and this almost-2%-yielder remains deeply committed to returning cash to shareholders, even as it continues its acquisitive ways -- most recently buying Brocade to extend its prowess in the data centre space. The best is yet to come, because when Avago bought Broadcom -- and subsequently changed its name to that company -- it set itself up for the biggest change of all coming to telecommunications, 5G.
You get all of this for 14x earnings.
None of these stocks is sexy. None makes you feel like you are on the cusp of social or mobile or cloud or disruptive technologies. Yet all offer bargains to both the customer and the consumer.
It's a simple discrete philosophy: Reward the customer and the shareholder on a consistent basis and you will get more customers and more shareholders -- and therefore a higher price over time.