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11 companies spending money to make money

Investors might complain about it, but they know companies must spend money to make money. And get this. The companies increasing spending on upgrading equipment and facilities are actually investors’ favorites.

There are 11 companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500, including single-cup coffee brewer Keurig Green Mountain (GMCR), airline Southwest (LUV) and drugmaker Eli Lilly (LLY) that not only spent 5% or more of revenue on capital expenditures the past 12 months, but also increased their investments relative to revenue by 50% or more in the most recent quarter, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from S&P Capital IQ. Capital expenditures are cash investments made to improve or upgrade their equipment or facilities. Financials, utilities and energy companies were excluded from the analysis.

These 11 stocks are up 34% on average over the past twelve months, which is more than twice the 15% gain of the S&P 500 during that time. The data show that though investors might bellyache when companies spend money to plow their businesses, the stocks aren’t punished, but in fact, outperform — at least lately. Below is a custom equal-weighted index of the stocks that boosted their capital expenditures compared with the S&P 500.

Chart source: S&P Capital IQ

The companies boosting capital expenditures are also beating the market this year, again shown with a custom equal-weighed index:

Chart source: S&P Capital IQ

Take the example of Southwest Airlines. The company’s spending on capital expenditures in the second quarter reached nearly 10% of its revenue. That’s up 140% from the 4.2% of revenue it spent on capital expenditures in the second quarter of 2013. That’s even greater than the 5% of revenue that rival Delta Air Lines (DAL) plowed into capital expenditures in the second quarter. But even with that massive increase in investment, shares of the stock are up 108% over the past 12 months, even better than Delta’s 78% gain. Southwest this year through June has spent $907 million in capital expenditures on everything from new aircraft to slots at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Over at Keurig Green Mountain, the company boosted its capital expenditures at a percentage of revenue by 132% in the second quarter. Capital expenditures were more than 10% of revenue during the quarter. Even so, the stock is up 48% over the past 12 months. The company said its capital expenditures were primarily targeted on boosting its packaging capabilities for Keurig beverage products, corporate facilities, computer technology systems and on new product areas.

That’s not to say that investors have universally applauded companies for boosting their capital spending relative to sales. Construction supply company Fastenal (FAST) boosted its capital expenditures as a percentage of revenue by 57% in the second quarter. Even so, the stock is down 6.3% during the past twelve months. It’s the only stock out of the 11 in the analysis to fall, though.

More famously, online retailer (AMZN) ran into trouble with investors after it announced it boosted its capital expenditures as a percentage of revenue in the second quarter by 23%. The stock is up 7.1% over the past 12 months, lagging the market.

Below are the 11 companies that have spent 5% or more of revenue on capital expenditures the past 12 months that also increased capital expenditures as a percentage of revenue by the most in the second calendar quarter:

CompanySymbolCap. Ex./Rev. Q2 2014Cap. Ex./Rev increaseStock % ch. 12 mo.
Vertex PharmaceuticalsVRTX8.5%1,359%11.7%
Constellation BrandsSTZ8.6%164%56.7%
Southwest AirlinesLUV10.0%140%108.4%
Keurig Green MountainGMCR10.1%131.6%47.7%
Eli LillyLLY5.2%124.5%12.7%
Vulcan Mat’lsVMC8.9%97.8%27.5%
Martin Marietta Mat’lMLM10.4%86.8%27%
Wynn ResortsWYNN16.8%71.2%45%
Dow ChemicalDOW5.8%66.9%36.2%
Michael KorsKORS8.0%53.2%11%

Sources: S&P Capital IQ, USA TODAY research