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Should Wesfarmers Ltd shares be a core portfolio holding?

Photo credit: AS 1979

Wesfarmers Ltd (ASX: WES) is one of the most widely-owned stocks on the ASX with a market capitalisation of $49 billion and over 500,000 shareholders on its register.

In comparison, the mighty Telstra Corporation Ltd (ASX: TLS) has a market capitalisation of approximately $69 billion and 1.4 million shareholders.

Like Telstra, the imbedded strength and stability of Wesfarmers’ business model is highly appealing to any investor looking for core stocks to build the foundations of a rock-solid portfolio.

Here are four reasons to consider Wesfarmers as a foundation stock for your portfolio.

1. Maintainable and defensive earnings – While a portion of Wesfarmers’ earnings are volatile (primarily the coal business), the influence of these earnings streams is diminishing as the group’s retail operations which include Coles and Bunnings continue to expand.

Importantly, the entrenched position of these retailers and their wide customer bases creates a defensive stream of earnings that is matched by only a few other blue chip stocks such as Telstra and Woolworths Limited (ASX: WOW).

2. Growth – The growth profile of Wesfarmers would appear to be more appealing than many other blue chips thanks to the firm’s conglomerate structure. The growth potential of the Bunnings business is most exciting, while the Coles division should benefit from increased efficiencies and store roll-out and upgrade plans.

Wesfarmers also provides shareholders with exposure to resources, chemicals, energy & fertiliser and industrial & safety. The recent performance from these non-retail divisions has been mixed, but given their cyclical nature higher earnings can reasonably be expected in the future.

3. Dividends – Investors looking for core stocks almost certainly desire solid, dependable, fully franked dividends. Wesfarmers has the maintainable and defensive earnings base which allows for relatively consistent dividends to be paid out.

4. Balance sheet strength and quality management – None of the above matters if a company can’t survive unexpected shocks. The best way investors can be assured a company will survive and prosper is to own companies that are run by competent, able and trustworthy managers who will act in the interests of shareholders.

It also means owning companies that have solid balance sheets that can withstand unexpected shocks. Pleasingly Wesfarmers boasts both of these attributes.

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Motley Fool contributor Tim McArthur has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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