I can't think of a stock that's more hated.
I've written about this company several times before. I've personally owned it for years. But just about every time I mention it, I end up receiving nasty emails admonishing the fact that I would cover... let alone recommend... investors own shares of this company.
In fact, it happens so often that I instruct our staff to put in a mention that this investment isn't for everyone whenever they cover it. If you don't want to invest in this stock, I can certainly understand. But if you have an open mind toward this black sheep, you're likely to appreciate what it can do for you.
Simply take a look at its performance so far in 2011...
In a year marked by credit downgrades, the European debt crisis, and stagnating growth, the most hated company on the planet -- Philip Morris International (NYSE: PM) -- is still making investors rich. And that comes when the broader market has been a roller coaster ride.
In fact, Philip Morris stock is within pennies of its 52-week high hit earlier this month.
Unfortunately, I've noticed that more and more investors seem to be tricked into thinking investing has to be complicated. But stocks like Philip Morris prove that making money doesn't have to be hard.
Philip Morris doesn't have a complicated business model. It is simply one of the most dominant and shareholder-friendly companies on the planet. The company does business in 180 countries and owns 7 of the world's top 15 global brands in its market.
But it has also made a mission of rewarding its shareholders. In the last three years alone, it has returned more than $12 billion in dividends while increasing the payments per share by 43%. Today, the shares pay a yield of more than 4%.
Then there are the buybacks. Since May 2008 the company has repurchased more than $20 billion in stock -- or nearly 20% of the outstanding shares.
All of these moves simply make the stock more valuable, even if earnings don't rise a cent. And as you can see, that's showing up in the share price as well.
I must admit, I'm a bit biased though. I personally own Philip Morris and also selected it as one of my 10 Best Stocks to Hold Forever.
Of course, with investing there's never a surefire thing. There's no quality a company can possess that will guarantee its success.
But when you can find companies like Philip Morris that dominate their market and are returning billions to investors, these are the sort of stocks that can still deliver strong returns in nearly any market -- including this one.