Winners Of The Great Recession Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Google, Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), CF Industries Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:CF), Priceline.com Inc (NASDAQ:PCLN), BlackRock, Inc. (NYSE:BLK) Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) by Bud Labitan

Over the past five years, these businesses have prospered mightily. They have produced excellent returns in generating free cash flow for shareholders.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)
Google, Inc. NASDAQ:GOOG)
CF Industries Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:CF)
Priceline.com Inc (NASDAQ:PCLN)
BlackRock, Inc. (NYSE:BLK)
Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM)

How did these businesses manage to prosper in a time many consider to be the worst economic period since the great depression of the 1930’s? First, let me place this disclaimer. Some of these business descriptions are taken directly from each company’s marketing material as well as other online sources.

The Great Global Recession of 2009 began around December 2007 and it took a sharper dive in September 2008. Recall that U.S. housing bubble peaked in 2006. But, irrational bubble valuation forces caused the values of securities tied to U.S. real estate pricing to plummet and damage financial institutions globally. It was sparked by the outbreak of the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis and financial crisis of 2007-08. The exact start and end-point for the recession greatly varied from country to country. Overall, it was the worst global recession since World War II.

Let’s review how these businesses prospered during this Great Global Recession.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)

First, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) designs, manufactures, and markets personal computers, mobile communication devices, and portable digital music and video players. It sells a variety of related software, services, peripherals, and networking solutions. It’s products and services include iPhone®, iPad®, Mac®, iPod®, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) TV®, a portfolio of consumer and professional software applications, the iOS and OS X® operating systems, iCloud®, and a variety of accessory, service and support offerings. Apple sells its products through its online stores, retail stores, direct sales force, and third-party wholesalers, resellers, and value-added resellers.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) also sells and delivers digital content and applications through the iTunes Store®, App StoreSM, iBookstoreSM, and Mac App Store. In addition, the Company sells a variety of third-party iPhone, iPad, Mac and iPod compatible products, including application software, and various accessories, through its online and retail stores. Its reportable operating segments consist of the Americas, Europe, Japan, Asia-Pacific and Retail. The Europe segment includes European countries, as well as the Middle East and Africa. The AAPL Asia-Pacific segment includes Australia and Asian countries. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s success has been in creating appealing devices that attract loyal customers who are willing to pay premium prices to own this brand.

Apple Inc. (AAPL)

Next, Google Incorporated became the most popular internet search service. This global technology company is engaged in improving the ways people connect with information.  It is now focused around the key areas of: search, advertising, operating systems and platforms, enterprise and hardware products. It integrates innovative features into its search service and offer specialized search services to help users tailor their search.

In January 2012, the Company launched Search plus Your World. When a user performs a signed-in search on Google, the user’s results page may include Google+ content from people that the user is close to. Advertising includes Google Search, Google Display, Google Mobile and Google Local. AdWords is the Company’s auction-based advertising program delivering ads relevant to search queries or Web content.

The Company, along with Open Handset Alliance has developed Android mobile software platform that any developer can use to create applications for mobile devices and any handset manufacturer can install on a device.

Google Chrome OS is an open source operating system with the Google Chrome Web browser as its foundation. The Chrome browser runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux computers. Google TV is a platform that enables the consumers to experience television and the Internet on a single screen, with the ability to search and find the content they want to watch. It is based on the Android operating system and runs the Google Chrome browser.

Google’s enterprise products provide Google Apps. These include Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, and Google Sites. The Company provides hosted, Web-based applications that people use on any device with a browser and an Internet connection. The Company also provides versions of its Google Maps Application Programming Interface (API) for businesses, as well as Google Earth Enterprise (a behind-the-company-firewall software solution for imagery and data visualization).

Google competes with Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO), Microsoft Corporation’s Bing, YouTube, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR), WebMD for health queries, Kayak for travel queries,
Monster.com for job queries, and Amazon.com and eBay for e-commerce. Google’s
success has been in creating an appealing and useful search service and the
Android operating system that attract customers.

This next business was a bit of a surprise to me. I did not realize how much the fertilizer industry has grown until I viewed an insightful PBS documentary called “America Revealed.” With only 2,600 employees, CF Industries Holdings, founded in 1946, manufactures and distributes nitrogen and phosphate fertilizer products around the world. The business of the Company is divided into two operating segments, the nitrogen segment and the phosphate segment. The Nitrogen segment includes the manufacture and sale of ammonia, urea, and UAN. The Company’s principal products in the nitrogen segment are ammonia, granular urea, urea ammonium nitrate solution, or UAN, and ammonium nitrate, or AN. The Company’s other nitrogen products include urea liquor, diesel exhaust fluid, or DEF, and aqua ammonia, which are sold
primarily to its industrial customers. The Company operates seven nitrogen fertilizer production facilities in North America.

The phosphate segment includes the manufacture and sale of DAP and MAP. The Company’s principal products in the phosphate segment are diammonium phosphate, or DAP, and monoammonium phosphate, or MAP. The Company’s core
market and distribution facilities are concentrated in the Midwestern United States and other major agricultural areas of the U.S. and Canada.

CF Industries Holdings also exports nitrogen fertilizer products from its Donaldsonville, Louisiana manufacturing facilities and phosphate fertilizer products from its Florida phosphate operations through its Tampa port
facility. In the nitrogen segment, the Company’s primary North American-based competitors include Agrium and Koch Nitrogen Fertilizers. In the phosphate segment, the Company’s primary North American-based competitors include Agrium, Mosaic, Potash Corp. and Simplot. CF Industries’ success has been in creating a large and efficient producer and distributor of nitrogen and phosphate based fertilizers around the world.

Next, is Priceline.com Incorporated. It shows us that customers took their bargain hunting practices online and found Priceline appealing. Priceline.com is an online travel company that offers its customers a range of travel services, including hotel rooms, car rentals, airline tickets, vacation packages, cruises and destination services.

Priceline also operates a retail, price-disclosed hotel reservation service in the United States, which enables its customers to select the exact hotel they want to book. Then, the price of the reservation is disclosed prior to
booking. It offers such reservations through a merchant model, as well as through an agency model for hotel room night reservations sourced through Booking.com

Booking.com is the internet hotel reservation service, with offices worldwide. Booking.com works with over 185,000 hotels and accommodations in over 160 countries offering hotel reservations on various websites and in 41
languages. In May 2010, it acquired the rentalcars.com business, a United Kingdom-based international rental car reservation service formerly known as TravelJigsaw.

Rentalcars.com offers its car hire services in more than 4,000 locations throughout

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