At publication time, we find ourselves just a few days before the end of Carnival season. For many Christians, Carnival precedes the more austere period of self-denial, prayer, and contemplation known as Lent. In some cultures, Carnival means public festivals filled with revelry and indulgence – New Orleans’ Mardi Gras revelry and Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival are two of the more famous examples of this. 

This led us to consider many of the companies engaged in such celebrations – those whose products and services are integral to what might be considered sins or vices. As investments, how do they perform, relative to their more wholesome counterparts? 

We have chosen two simple measures of performance: operating margins and stock performance (exclusive of dividends, if any). We will also focus only on companies large enough to be publicly traded – a requirement that takes some types of vice-oriented businesses largely off the table, as they tend to be small and privately held.

It’s worth noting that what constitutes a “vice” or a “sin” varies widely based on factors such as geography, religion, and political leanings. Thus, some of the various “vice” companies discussed below might not seem to be so sinful to you, and some of the “virtuou...
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