While sin stocks are traditionally thought of as a recessionary hedge — in part, due to generous dividends paid by some — they can also serve as macro and special situation plays. History has shown that investing in casinos, alcohol beverage makers and cigarette manufacturers can net you a nice return.
This is especially true when you consider that the USA Mutuals Vice Fund Investor Class Shares (MUTF: VICEX ) has actually outperformed the S&P 500 year-to-date; the former is up 21%, while the broad index is up 17.5%. There’s a good reason to believe that selecting certain securities with better than average growth profiles and macro tailwinds will do better than both.
The new addition to vice stocks is, of course, cannabis but some of the old “sins” are still worth a look too. With all of that said, here are three sin stocks to consider now, including a play on the marijuana space.
Wynn Resorts (WYNN)
Source: Aurlmas via Flickr (Modified)
Just this week, Wynn Resorts (NYSE: WYNN ) ended its intention to pursue a potential $7 billion buyout of James Packer’s Crown Resorts Ltd , Australia’s largest casino operator after news of these discussions were leaked.
I view this as positive news. WYNN would have bought a company with little expectation of expansion beyond the Australian market. The termination of the deal means that WYNN can redirect energy and cash toward the next growth region: Japan. While the yen has depreciated in keeping with Abenomics, it’s not exactly a cheap currency or a cheap place to do business. A Japanese resort would cost billions of dollars (estimated at 10 billion). That $7 billion can now be repurposed to a market that has much more potential.
Macau, which accounts for 69% of WYNN’s business , has seen signs of revival. March revenues in Macau casinos hit a high of $3.2 billion for the year, which “according to Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination … [was] the highest figure recorded so far in 2019.” Even though the figure is a 0.4% decline over the prior year, it beat analyst expectations for up to a 6% decline due to the trade war. WYNN shares rallied in response. With China humming along smoothly, Macau revenues should continue in line.
All in all, things are looking brighter for WYNN, even in a post-Steve Wynn world. Although global growth may be slowing, WYNN’s focus in Asia and the strengthening of its core Macau market will serve shareholders well.
Aurora Cannabis ( ACB )
Aurora Cannabis (NYSE: ACB ) had a productive second quarter and the company continues to expand rapidly on the manufacturing front as well as management. ACB has been bulking up with senior management, especially on the strategy side.
All metrics are trending positively (SG&A should catch up with Aurora Sky). Net revenue of $54.2 million, is up 83%, and up 363% compared to the same period in 2018, driven by a promising launch in the Canadian consumer market that contributed $21.6 million in sales. The number of kilograms sold was up 162%.
ACB has been seeing an uptick in demand with a rosy 2019 outlook to back it up. With Aurora Sky operating at scale, the cash cost associated with producing each gram of cannabis will be significantly lower — estimated long-term costs are below $1 per gram. This bodes well for improvements in profitability.
Management has indicated that if they remain disciplined, they could “achieve sustained positive EBITDA beginning in fiscal Q4 2019 (calendar Q2 2019).”
Finally, with all the M&A going on in the cannabis space, especially companies that are traded on the major U.S. exchanges, it would not be a surprise to see ACB get snapped up in the next 12 months.
Philip Morris International (PM)
For an out-of-favor industry, Philip Morris International’s (NYSE: PM ) 2018 results were exceptionally strong.
Diluted earnings-per-share were up 31% year-over-year on net revenues of $29.6 billion. This was in the face of unit shipment volume decreasing 2.1%.
Lower cigarette shipment volume was offset by significant growth in heated tobacco unit shipment volume, indicating that PM has been right to invest in smokeless alternatives. Their foresight has been paying off and will continue to do so.
Furthermore, on the smokeless front, PM announced last month the results of a new study on e-cigarettes. The six-month study assessed the biological response of mice exposed e-cigarette vapors compared with that of cigarette smoke. It concluded that “e-cigarette vapors with and without nicotine induced a significantly lower biological responses associated with cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases than cigarette smoke.”
Digging further into the numbers, annual reported operating cash flow of $9.5 billion gives assurance that the dividend isn’t in danger despite a couple of unfavorable class action rulings in Canada. It’s 5.3% yield is mighty attractive in a world where the U.S. 10-Year yields just 2.5%.
As of this writing, Luce Emerson did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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