Estee Lauder Companies Inc (EL), International Flavors & Fragrances Inc (IFF): What Is the Most Beautiful Investment of Them All?

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Everyone in the world wants to look beautiful. If they can’t look beautiful, then they at least want to feel beautiful. This has led to success for companies like Estee Lauder Companies Inc (NYSE:EL), International Flavors & Fragrances Inc (NYSE:IFF), and Avon Products, Inc. (NYSE:AVP).

These three companies might sell different products, but they all cater to the beauty-conscious consumer. As you might already know, the domestic market has matured. Demand will always be there to a certain extent, however. While demand has matured in the United States, it has increased in emerging markets where the number of middle-income consumers are growing at a rapid rate.

The question is, of course, which of the aforementioned companies is likely to present the best long-term investing opportunity?

High-end in many ways

Estee Lauder Companies Inc (NYSE:EL) focuses on skin care, makeup, fragrances, and hair care. The company sells sprays, lotions, powders, creams, candles, soaps, and more. Estee Lauder is also a licensee for Tommy Hilfiger, Donna Karen New York, DKNY, Michael Kors Holdings Ltd (NYSE:KORS), and more.

Estee Lauder Companies Inc (NYSE:EL) has consistently improved its revenue and earnings annually. It sports a healthy net margin of 9.74%, its debt-to-equity ratio of 0.42 is stronger than the industry average of 0.7, and it yields 1.10%. The dividend appears to be very safe.

Estee Lauder Companies Inc (NYSE:EL) is focused on selling its high-end brands in emerging markets. The most recent news on this front is its expansion plans in Africa, where it has seen success thus far. Unlike most of its peers, Estee Lauder has also seen increased sales in the United States and Europe. In the second quarter, sales in the United Sales increased 1%, while sales in Europe jumped 3%.

Estee Lauder Companies Inc (NYSE:EL) sells more than 25 brands across 150+ countries. It ranks no. 33 on Barron’s 500 for 2013, and no. 279 on Forbes’ Fortune 500 for 2013. Estee Lauder has been a long-term winner, and thanks to strong management  it should be able to weather any economic storms relatively well. It shouldn’t be considered a defensive play, however.

Innovation rules

International Flavors & Fragrances Inc (NYSE:IFF), or IFF, has been another long-term winner. Thanks to consistent innovation, this trend should continue. Since 2001, IFF has been granted 200 patents. It currently has over 170 scientists, 90 Ph.D.’s, and 320 application engineers on payroll. With this kind of brainpower, IFF should continue to launch high-quality products.

International Flavors & Fragrances Inc (NYSE:IFF)’s revenue has consistently increased over the past three years. Earnings growth has been inconsistent, but the company always delivers profits. In the second quarter, net sales jumped 5% year over year. The company showed a revenue increase of 5% in Flavors and a revenue increase of 8% in Fragrances. Cash flow and margins continue to improve, and high-quality products allow for pricing power. Furthermore, raw material costs have declined, and the company has divested its non-performing assets.

Approximately 75% of International Flavors & Fragrances Inc (NYSE:IFF)’s sales come from outside North America. Due to the current consumer weakness found throughout the majority of North America, this is a positive. The company’s North American revenue did just increase 2%, but gains of 7% in Latin America and Asia are indicators of stronger demand in other areas.

A riskier idea

Unlike the two aforementioned companies, Avon Products, Inc. (NYSE:AVP) saw revenue decline in 2012 and it swung to a loss. In the second quarter, North America revenue declined 12%, a drop that was mostly due to the company having fewer active reps. This might lead one to believe that Avon shouldn’t be considered as an investment choice.

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