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Companies Whose Customers Don’t Disappear

While many companies are facing severe drops in sales, some businesses are reporting relatively steady results because they deal with long-term customers. Such reliable performers should suffer little damage during the recession. For best results, stick with stocks that have delivered consistent growth in the past—and seem likely to increase earnings when the recession ends, says fund manager Alec Walsh. Avoid businesses with heavy debt burdens and skimpy profit margins. His favorites include…

Medco Health Solutions, Inc. (MHS). This company manages pharmaceutical benefits for employers. The company makes bulk purchases for clients, achieving substantial cost savings. Sales are predicted to grow as demand increases for generics and mail-order pharmacy services. Recent share price: $43.24.

Praxair, Inc. (PX). This firm supplies industrial gases—such as oxygen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide and specialty gases like helium and argon—to refineries, mills, factories, hospitals and the food industry. The business is relatively stable because the company signs 20-year contracts with clients. Recent share price: $65.28.

Source: Alec Walsh, portfolio manager of Harding Loevner Global Equity Fund (HLMGX). It had annualized returns of 1.7% during the 10 years through February 28, better than 74% of world stock funds, according to Morningstar, Inc.
Date: April 22, 2009 Publication: Bottom Line Personal
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