CSL Limited, Woolworths Limited and Telstra Corporation Ltd: 3 stocks for conservative investors

Source: Telstra presentation

With the global economic outlook being uncertain following Brexit, stock selection could be an even more important aspect of investing over the medium to long term. That’s because merely picking the right regions, industries or sectors may no longer be enough to generate alpha, with there being substantial rewards for selecting the strongest businesses too.

I also believe that selecting companies which trade at a major discount to their intrinsic value could be even more important than usual. A correction could come along and take the froth off the market, with only the stocks offering good value given their risk profiles and growth outlook being able to maintain ASX-beating performance.

That’s why I’m upbeat about the prospects for Woolworths Limited (ASX: WOW). It’s trading on a low valuation and I think that investors are already adequately pricing in the risks it faces from a slowdown in consumer spending, alongside higher competition from discount operators. For instance, Woolworths has a dividend yield of 5.4% versus 4.3% for the market and trades on a P/S ratio of 0.43 versus 0.91 for the Aussie retail sector.

Sure, Woolworths is struggling and I’ve been critical of parts of its strategy in the past. I believe that investing in pricing and expecting customers to stay/return simply won’t work and that Woolworths needs to exit the failing, non-core parts of its business. But a refreshed strategy could help turn it around and for long term investors who are willing to be patient, I think Woolworths will score a high total return partly because of its dividend.

From one end of the valuation scale to another. CSL Limited (ASX: CSL) is expensive based on its P/E. It stands at 29 versus 17 for the ASX, but I still think that represents good value for money. That’s because CSL offers a degree of reliability which is rare in today’s highly uncertain world. And in my opinion, an even larger scarcity premium will be applied to CSL’s valuation as we move through the 2017 financial year and beyond.

Evidence of CSL’s consistency is highlighted in its EPS growth of the last decade, which works out at 22% per annum. I think this rate of growth could be maintained due to CSL’s growth strategy which includes significant reinvestment as well as an expansion into new product areas which will be funded by the strong operating cash flow which CSL enjoys.

Despite my cautious view of the next year, I think that emerging markets will continue to appeal both in terms of their growth rates and investor interest. That’s a big reason why I’m optimistic about Telstra Corporation Ltd’s (ASX: TLS) share price outlook, since the telecoms company is investing heavily in Asia as it seeks to become more than just a dominant Aussie telecoms play.

I think that Telstra’s strategy to expand in Asia is sound. For instance, it is seeking to improve connectivity in the region so as to enable integrated solutions for its customers. Further, Telstra is seeking to make targeted investments in the region so as to be able to deliver new software based solutions, which could be a key growth area for the company in financial year 2017 and beyond.

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Motley Fool contributor Robert Stephens 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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