Vet Stocks are Must for a Portfolio
I grew up with cats in the house. When I was five or six years old I got a cat. I was going to name the cat Garfield but it turned out not to be a male. Ms. Garfield was debated. Name plans blown we called her Princess. My sister got a cat named Midnight later as well. I had a roommate who had a Jack Russell Terrier too. I never really thought much about veterinary hospitals and practices as a big business until I started paying my recently rescued cats bills.
Last Fall I rescued a kitten from behind a shopping center. She was just walking around all by herself meowing at me. She was only about 2 months old so I took her in. I took her to a veterinary practice just a half mile from my place. It's called a vet hospital but they do routine appointments. My little kitten Precious was healthy. She had some eye and nose crusting we figured were just allergies. Maybe a couple months later she exhibited some symptoms of a urinary tract infection. My ex-girlfriend took her to the vet and yep she had a UTI. She had an eye infection too. Twelve or fourteen days of Amoxicillin later she was cured. A few weeks ago she got another infection and thankfully after yet another round of antibiotics she is fine again. Her allergy symptoms are almost all gone as well after I gave her antibiotic drops in her nose.
After all of those appointments and treatments I realized having a pet can almost be as expensive as having a kid at times. I knew this before I got the cat of course but it finally hit home. We love our pets almost like children. I did some research on pet spending and not surprisingly Americans spend steadily on their pets. About three-quarters of Americans have pets. This is a huge business. Americans spent $61 billion on their pets in 2011. The BLS government statistics on this are pretty astounding. Take a look at the full article here. Some of the interesting points are as follows.
In 2011, households spent more on their pets annually than they spent on alcohol ($456), residential landline phone bills ($381), or men and boys clothing ($404).
Despite the recession, families continued to spend consistently on their pets between 2007 and 2011. Spending on pets stayed close to 1 percent of total expenditures per household, despite the recession that occurred during this time.
Spending on pet food stayed constant or increased during the recession, even while spending at restaurants fell. Married couples without children living at home spent the most on their pets out of any household configuration in 2011.
So not only were pet companies a recession beater they are a baby boomer play also. In my quest for public pet companies I have fallen for two stocks I'd like to take home. The first one is VCA Inc.(WOOF). WOOF has 643 animal hospitals in the US and Canada. It is a $4 billion company. It has a solid balance sheet, good profit margins and growing free cash flow. Return on equity is 11%. Forward PE is 21. The stock has been on a run and just broke out to a new high yesterday.
The second stock is Petmed Express (PETS). PETS is a much smaller company with a market cap of just $370 million. They sell prescription drugs and pet supplies. PETS has similar healthy margins like WOOF. Net profit margin is 7.6%. Much better than WOOF PETS sports a whopping 23% return on equity and 22% return on assets! These are return on equity numbers that would make even Warren Buffet do a double take. This company has an incredible balance sheet with zero long-term debt. Solid free cash flow is there and to boot the company pays a big dividend. The dividend yield is 4%. The stock is also hitting fresh highs over $18 a share now. As I've made the case pet stocks are a must for a portfolio.
full disclosure: no current position in WOOF or PETS but am looking to buy both.