Nestle India – a long-term stock return study

I have done some work on Nestle India that should be useful to you in understanding high quality stocks that seem to always trade at “high valuations”.


Nestle India – needs no introduction

Most of us have used Nestle’s products at least once in our lifetime, if not more.

From the ubiquitous Maggi noodles to Milkmaid to Munch chocolates. And how can I forget Nescafe which has become a generic word for coffee in India. If you have traveled in long-distance trains you have to choose between “chai” or “nescoffee”.

Nestle India owns very strong brands. The company enjoys high return on equity. They have strong cash flows. They share the spoils with shareholders in the form of generous dividends.

You might want to see their range of products in India. Read Nestle’s annual report for the financial year 2012 from page 10 onwards.

If the images in the viewer are blurred, you can download Nestle’s FY12 annual report.


Nestle India valuation

If you talk of Nestle’s valuation investors usually separate into two camps.

One view will be that it is overvalued and that it makes no sense. This camp will say that on price to earnings basis the market price usually suggests 25-30 times its earnings over many years. It seems like a very high number at first glance if you have never checked Nestle India’s valuation before.

In recent times, the P/E ratio has gone even higher. Upwards of 35-40 times earnings.

The other camp is usually ready in agreeing that it has always been expensive. And it will continue to be expensive because unlike many other companies, Nestle has a very strong moat (if you want to learn more about moats and many other concepts  related to investing sign up for my free Start Stock Investing E-Course). Their moat gives them tremendous resilience.

If I ask you whether Nestle products will be around 20 years from today, most probably, you will reply in the affirmative.

If you say no, take a guess about the age of this company in India.

100 years.

I don’t know many companies in India that have lasted that long and are still in the best of health.

If you are talking of growing cash flows and predictability of growing cash flows, this company fits the requirement.

The second camp will agree that they are paying for growth. Something that is in the future and inherently unpredictable.

The first camp might say, that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

But the second camp is right in assuming that compared to an average company, in Nestle’s case you will have the comfort of knowing that growth plans are more likely to be achieved. That this company will be around for many years to come.

Hence the fact that it will look “expensive” if you look at it purely on P/E terms without considering the growth embedded in this stock.


Nestle India stock returns

I wanted to analyze the returns this stock has given over the long term and across different holding periods across the past 2 decades or so.

These were my findings.

A word of explanation is necessary.

I have taken rolling stock returns. For example if you bought Nestle in 2009 at Rs. 1,989 and sold in 2012 at Rs. 4,540 you earned a 32% compounded annual growth rate on your investment in three years.

Similarly, read the rest of the columns for rolling returns. Go one year back at a time.


Financial year EPS Average Stock Price P/E Sales growth PAT growth Year on Year stock return Rolling 3 year stock returns Rolling 5 year stock returns


Note: Average stock price is calculated for each year and divided by Earning per Share (EPS) for the year to calculate P/E ratio. One can obviously build a P/E valuation chart on a daily basis but for this study annual data is sufficient to understand the dynamics of Nestle’s valuation.


Observations on Nestle’s stock returns

  • In times when the economy is unsteady or delivering low growth, Nestle sees a jump in P/E ratio. In other words, the arguments that you hear today about “consumption stocks” and why they deserve high valuations in an uncertain economic environment.
  • Look at 1996-2000 and the high P/E ratio This was a period where India faced high interest rates and a real estate slowdown. Nestle traded at a high P/E.
  • Growth does slow down for Nestle when the economy is not doing great, but Nestle at least grows. This is unlike cyclical businesses which start delivering losses.
  • The stock has gone through extended periods of overvaluation even in the past as it is doing today. It can stay in an overvalued zone for multiple years. See 1996-2000.
  • After the slowdown around 2000, when the economy started doing better, P/E multiples came down (almost halved in  4 years) even when profit growth was robust.
  • Rolling returns are poor in the years following the end of a low-growth phase in the economy. See the returns for 2001-04 as an example


What if you also consider dividends?

That would be a fair question considering Nestle generates significant free cash flow which allows it to pay decent dividends to shareholders.

The table below contains two new columns which consider dividends in calculating rolling returns. For those who are technically more interested, I have not considered dividends to be re-invested or earning any interest in the bank. I have simply added them to get total returns to shareholders.


Financial year P/E Dividend per share Dividend yield Rolling 3 year stock returns Rolling 5 year stock returns Rolling 3 year stock returns with dividends Rolling 5 year stock returns with dividends


Observations on total returns which include dividends

  • The picture does not change too much.
  • Interestingly, if I consider dividends, I see that a shareholder would not have made a loss in any 3 year holding period over 1996-12.


If you were a long term investor in Nestle India

Consider someone who bought into Nestle in 1997. Assume the investor bought one share for Rs. 259.

Dividends received over the next 15 years would add up to Rs. 422. This sum is higher than the purchase price by a big amount. In effect the purchase price is paid for over 15 years with just the dividends.

Rs. 259 would have grown to Rs. 4,540 in 2012. This is a gain of 1652%. In other words, the capital appreciation ensures that initial amount is multiplied by 17.5 times.

This is the benefit of holding on to high quality stocks for the long-term.


What is the stock outlook for Nestle?

As Mark Twain said,

History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.


Assuming the company continues to do well, present P/E ratios of over 40 suggest that returns over the next 3-5 years will not be great. This is based on long-term data that you see in the tables given above.

It might be wise to wait for lower valuations in Nestle India.

This can be a strong core holding in your portfolio that is truly for decade plus holding periods. But if one can time it and allocate more when it becomes attractively valued, why not?

This is not to say that one can take everything for granted. Do your checks on the business and how it is performing regularly. If the core business is not attractive then you need to re-consider. That goes without saying.

Share your thoughts

What are your thoughts on Nestle? Do you have a different point of view? Do you have more examples of wealth builders?

Don’t hold back.

Use the comments section below and share your views with the Capital Orbit community.

Join the Start Stock Investing E-Course. It's free.

15 lessons over 15 weeks. Over 500 people who have already signed up. Start off. Learn how to invest in stocks for the long-term.


  1. Anil Kumar Tulsiram says

    Thanks for another good post…

    Even Prof Sanjay bakshi has posted a great lecture on Nestle. see Lecture 28…

    I may be WRONG…. but the problem is 1) Either such companies are easy to identify in hindsight OR 2) You need lot of conviction on your idea to be able to buy any stock at 40 PE. I find it very difficult to buy any stock on a double digit PE….

    • says

      Thanks Anil.

      I had missed Prof. Bakshi’s lecture. I have read some of the other slides. Thanks indeed. It was great reading.

      1. Your hindsight argument is true. That is true for most things we see. But with such a company there is a track record that you can see today. It is superlative.
      2. A stock at P/E ratio of 40 is tough to accept mentally. But then it is tough also to argue with past records. I too have grappled with these questions. This is the reason why I did this exercise. It gives an idea at least about how it has played out in the past.

  2. Keyur Shah says

    Thanks for the efforts you have put in and the analysis you have done. The conviction to pick this stock has gone from 0% to 20% because of your analysis. The stock is currently trading at a PE of 43 indicates that everyone do believe that the environment is shaky.

    • says

      Hi Keyur,

      It’s alright to have different views. In fact that is the basis of the market. I still stand by my analysis that there is a high probability that it will not deliver great returns in the short term. Let us see.

      Are there any positives or negatives you want to add? If yes, do share them here.


  3. says


    Its was nice reading your article on Nestle, i love this compant as it has a strong moat, its tough to break the walls of this castle.

    What do you think of the pricing now, as of today 17-04-2014 the price is 4779.15 that is a P/E of 41.24 also the price is almost close to its 52 week low.

    Do you think its a good time to buy the stock. as it seems the price havent moved much from its 2012 average stock price.

  4. says

    This article is very informative but it took me a long time to find it in google.
    I found it on 11 spot, you should focus on quality backlinks building,
    it will help you to rank to google top 10.
    And i know how to help you, just search in google – k2 seo tips

  5. says

    Actually i picked this article when it is needed for me. with India’s Population and More urbanization is bigger strength of Nestle Plus its Super good brands. Though Valuations are not attractive enough, it will generate better returns in log run because India’s Middle class people surplus income is inching higher though Fuel price hike and inflation….
    But i selected Nestle Sri Lanka which is also in PE 30 level. I will put my intended money into ITC and Nestle Lanka.

  6. RAJEEV says

    Thanks. Nestle is a great stock that is considered as safe as GOLD but has given better returns. Your views that it may not grow much in the future may not be correct. Growing population with increasing prosperity would increase consumption of its products and P/E ratio will come down as earnings would increase rapidly using the recently completed expansion.

    Colgate Palmolive India is another wealth builder of the same kind/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>