People always bother themselves with questions like “Should I invest in growth companies or value companies,” or “Should I flee to safety or stay the course?” My answer is simple: Find a stock that gives you all of the above, and Stryker (SYK) fits the mold.
Perhaps the greatest thing about Stryker is it's resistance to downturns. Stryker's main products (orthopedic implants and medical equipment) are fairly resistant because hospitals cut their budgets much slower than other industries. Even though many orthopedic implants such as hip replacements are optional, the aging population should keep demand strong. As to lower cost competitors such as those in Asia, I don't think it's a problem. When it comes to buying clothes, it doesn't really matter where it's produced. But when getting a hip replacement, I will be sure to get the best available, not the cheapest.
With almost 40% of the companies stock owned by insiders, management has a strong incentive to produce healthy results. For many years, including recessions, Stryker has been able to produce 20+% revenue increases. Although that number last year fell to the teens, thats a rare thing in todays market. Not only has Stryker been able to produce outstanding historical results, they should be able to do well in the future, even if they didn't try. Stryker has one of the greatest forces behind them, demographics. AN aging population will fuel Strykers growth for years to come. Any form of government subsidized healthcare will only boost demand for their products. Stryker should not only be able to produce organically, but has recently been in merger/buyout rumors with Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Baxter International (BAX). My dream merger deal: Stryker and Intuitive Surgical (ISRG).
Having one of the greatest balance sheets in the entire healthcare industry has its advantages. Sitting on $2.2 billion dollars in cash gives them the mobility to expand efficiently in a downturn without worrying about credit problems. As for debt, Stryker carries a paltry 21 million in debt, most of which isn't due for many years. With a P/E of 12 being outrageously lower than historical valuations, Stryker is awfully compelling, especially since their business is looking to grow again this year (conservative forward P/E of 10). A strong and growing dividend of $0.40 (1.2%) isn't bad either.
Overall, this stock provides the safety so many desperately seek, the value only available in a bear market, and the growth thought to only be available in a bull market.
Disclosure: Long SYK