Comparing Unilever (UL) and Ecolab (ECL)

Unilever (NYSE: UL) and Ecolab (NYSE:ECL) are both large-cap consumer staples companies, but which is the superior stock? We will contrast the two companies based on the strength of their profitability, analyst recommendations, earnings, dividends, risk, institutional ownership and valuation.

Institutional & Insider Ownership

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6.7% of Unilever shares are owned by institutional investors. Comparatively, 78.3% of Ecolab shares are owned by institutional investors. 1.0% of Unilever shares are owned by insiders. Comparatively, 1.5% of Ecolab shares are owned by insiders. Strong institutional ownership is an indication that endowments, hedge funds and large money managers believe a company is poised for long-term growth.

Volatility and Risk

Unilever has a beta of 0.81, indicating that its stock price is 19% less volatile than the S&P 500. Comparatively, Ecolab has a beta of 1, indicating that its stock price has a similar volatility profile to the S&P 500.

Analyst Recommendations

This is a breakdown of recent recommendations for Unilever and Ecolab, as reported by MarketBeat.com.

Sell Ratings Hold Ratings Buy Ratings Strong Buy Ratings Rating Score
Unilever 1 4 0 0 1.80
Ecolab 0 9 9 0 2.50

Ecolab has a consensus price target of $140.65, indicating a potential downside of 0.38%. Given Ecolab’s stronger consensus rating and higher probable upside, analysts clearly believe Ecolab is more favorable than Unilever.

Dividends

Unilever pays an annual dividend of $1.76 per share and has a dividend yield of 3.1%. Ecolab pays an annual dividend of $1.64 per share and has a dividend yield of 1.2%. Unilever pays out 69.6% of its earnings in the form of a dividend. Ecolab pays out 35.0% of its earnings in the form of a dividend. Both companies have healthy payout ratios and should be able to cover their dividend payments with earnings for the next several years. Unilever has raised its dividend for 2 consecutive years and Ecolab has raised its dividend for 32 consecutive years.

Profitability

This table compares Unilever and Ecolab’s net margins, return on equity and return on assets.

Net Margins Return on Equity Return on Assets
Unilever N/A N/A N/A
Ecolab 10.90% 19.10% 7.02%

Earnings and Valuation

This table compares Unilever and Ecolab’s revenue, earnings per share and valuation.

Gross Revenue Price/Sales Ratio Net Income Earnings Per Share Price/Earnings Ratio
Unilever $60.68 billion 1.14 $6.84 billion $2.53 22.16
Ecolab $13.84 billion 2.95 $1.51 billion $4.69 30.10

Unilever has higher revenue and earnings than Ecolab. Unilever is trading at a lower price-to-earnings ratio than Ecolab, indicating that it is currently the more affordable of the two stocks.

Summary

Ecolab beats Unilever on 14 of the 17 factors compared between the two stocks.

Unilever Company Profile

Unilever PLC operates in the fast-moving consumer goods industry worldwide. It operates through Personal Care, Home Care, Foods, and Refreshment segments. The Personal Care segment offers skin care and hair care products, deodorants, and oral care products. The Home Care segment provides home care products, including powders, liquids and capsules, soap bars, and various cleaning products. The Foods segment offers soups, bouillons, sauces, snacks, mayonnaise, salad dressings, and margarines and spreads. The Refreshment segment provides ice creams and tea-based beverages. The company was founded in 1885 and is headquartered in London, the United Kingdom.

Ecolab Company Profile

Ecolab Inc. provides water, hygiene and energy technologies and services. The Company’s cleaning and sanitizing programs and products, pest elimination services and equipment maintenance and repair services support customers in the foodservice, food and beverage processing, hospitality, healthcare, government and education, retail, textile care and commercial facilities management sectors in over 170 countries. Its segments include Global Industrial, Global Institutional, Global Energy, Other and Corporate. Its Global Industrial segment consists of the Water, Food and Beverage, Paper and Textile Care operating units. Its Global Institutional segment consists of the Institutional, Specialty and Healthcare operating units. The Global Energy segment provides on-site and technology-driven solutions to the global drilling, oil and gas production, refining, and petrochemical industries. The Company’s Other segment consists of the Pest Elimination operating units.

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