I define risk as the possibility that an investment will result in a permanent loss of capital. One of the best ways to dampen risk, then, is to invest in businesses with diverse revenue streams that, when taken together, can be counted upon in all manner of market environments.
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Two businesses stand above all others in this regard. Read on on to learn more about them.
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Perhaps no other company is as broadly diversified as Warren Buffett's masterpiece, Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A) (NYSE: BRK-B). The mega-conglomerate owns more than 60 different subsidiaries, spanning across multiple industries including insurance, railroad, manufacturing, and retail businesses, among others. This broad sector diversification helps make Berkshire able to withstand even the most vicious of market declines. In fact, few businesses directly benefit from market downturns as much as Berkshire Hathaway.
Not only does Berkshire's stock tend to outperform when the market falls, but it's during these times that CEO and legendary investor Warren Buffett is best able to deploy the company's massive cash reserves. Even after accounting for the $20 billion Buffett likes to keep on handin case the company's insurance operations need to pay large claims, Berkshire's $85 billion cash hoard still leaves about $65 billion that Buffett could allocate toward value-creating acquisitions. And Buffett is always on the prowl for such investments.
Additionally, for those publicly traded businesses that Buffett is unable to purchase outright, he often looks to buy shares of them in Berkshire's investment portfolio. The Sage of Omaha keeps piling up huge gains for Berkshire's shareholders in this regard, with many of the company's best investment wins originally purchased during periods of market distress. As such, even if Berkshire Hathaway's stock price falls in value during market declines, investors can take solace in knowing that it's highly likely Buffett and his team will make prudent moves to increase the intrinsic value of the business during these turbulent times. In turn, this helps to lessen the chance that investors will suffer a permanent loss of capital, and it paves the way for excellent long-term returns.
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Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) is another outstanding low-risk business with highly diversified revenue streams. The healthcare conglomerate is comprised of more than 250 operating businesses in 60 countries, that span across three broad segments: pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and consumer products.
Further strengthening J&J's safety profile is the defensive nature of the healthcare industry as a whole; regardless of what's happening in the economy, people get sick, need medicine, and require medical procedures. The majority of products Johnson & Johnson sells therefore benefit from inelastic demand and steady, repeat purchases.
These aspects of the healthcare industry and Johnson & Johnson's business are no doubt some of the reasons it's one of only two companies that still possess a AAA credit rating. This superior credit-worthiness gives J&J access to abundant low-cost debt that, when combined with its massive free cash flow and cash-rich balance sheet, allows the company to invest in R&D, marketing, and value-creating acquisitions, while also returning cash to shareholders. In fact, Johnson & Johnson has increased its dividend payout for 54 consecutive years, fueled by 32 straight years of adjusted earnings increases.
For more than 130 years, Johnson & Johnson has weathered all manners of market environments, delivering excellent returns to investors along the way. With multiple catalysts likely to fuel growth in the decades ahead, investors can expect J&J to continue to provide solid risk-adjusted returns for many years to come.
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Joe Tenebruso has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Berkshire Hathaway (B shares). The Motley Fool recommends Johnson and Johnson. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. 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.