The earnings season in the US has kicked off with earnings from the banks JP Morgan ($JPM) and Wells Fargo ($WFC). Below are the earnings date for selected European and Nordic publicly listed companies. The companies are mostly constituents of the indices EURO STOXX 50®, STOXX® Europe 50 and OMX Nordic 40.
Costco [COST] issued a press release on their quarterly results after markets closed.
Comparable store sales missed estimates and the growth is slowing down in all segments. The US segment represents three quarters of the overall revenue.
Comparison with peers
Costco has very low gross margins relative to its peers, and despite its low SG&A it has low single digit operating margins.
The beauty of Costco however is their assets turnover of approximately 350%, which is only rivaled by Kroger [KR]
Kroger however has a much higher equity multiplier than Costco and a much lower interest coverage, which makes Costco a more attractive company than Kroger to invest in, when not taking into account valuation.
The share price of Costco has over the past 10 years gone up by more than 600% along with those of Dollar General [DG] and Dollar Tree [DLTR].
During that time all three have grown revenue by 200% or more; DLTR even more as a consequence of their acquisition of Family Dollar in 2015.
At a forward P/E of 33.8 Costco is richly valued and the quarterly earnings probably do not justify such lavish multiples. Below a plot of the enterprise value over the operating income as a time series, which shows the expansion of multiples for Costco in particular over the past 10 years. Costco is a wonderful business, but it’s probably too expensive at current levels despite their recent launch in China. If it is indeed priced to perfection, then missing on comparable store sales could have negative consequences for the stock price, when the markets open.
Reuters – Costco quarterly sales miss estimates amid fierce competition
Bloomberg – Costco’s Profit Falls Just Short of Investors’ High Expectations
Constellations Brands issued a press release on its quarterly results before markets opened.
Canopy equity loss
All segments performed well in terms of both shipment volume, revenue and profit.
But due to continued Canopy equity losses Constellation Brands yet again reported negative earnings for the quarter. The announcement of a positively revised outlook in terms of operating earnings was overshadowed by this.
Constellation’s share of Canopy Growth’s equity losses and related activities for second quarter fiscal 2020 totaled a loss of $484.4 million, including the impact from the June 2019 warrant modification, on a reported basis and a loss of $54.7 million on a comparable basis. Constellation has recognized a $757 million unrealized net gain in reported basis results since initial Canopy investment in November 2017; $839 million decrease in the fair value of Canopy investments was recognized for second quarter fiscal 2020.
At a forward P/E just above 20 it is not particularly attractively priced. Like distillers Brown Forman [BF-B] and Diageo [DEO] it is somewhat overpriced. An alternative investment could be AB InBev [BUD], which is somewhat more attractively valued compared to smaller brewery rivals Heineken [HEAIS.AS], Carlsberg [CARL-B.CO], Molson Coors [TAP], The Boston Beer Company [SAM] and Constellation Brands. AB InBev just like Constellation Brands have better operating margins than most competitors.
Reuters – Corona maker Constellation hit by pot investment loss; shares drop
PepsiCo issued a press release regarding its quarterly results before the market opened.
The financial results were accompanied by the following comments by CEO Ramon Laguarta.
“We are pleased with our results for the third quarter. While adverse foreign exchange translation negatively impacted reported net revenue performance, organic revenue growth was 4.3% in the quarter. We are making good progress against our strategic priorities and our businesses are performing well as we continue to make the necessary investments in our capabilities, brands, manufacturing and go-to-market capacity to propel our future growth. Given our performance year-to-date, we now expect to meet or exceed our full-year organic revenue growth target of 4%.”
Diving into the financial results
All segments except for Frito Lay North America (FLNA) and Asia/Middle East/North Africa suffered from decreasing volume, but this was offset by an increase in price and all segments experienced organic revenue growth.
The operating margin margin for Quaker Foods North America contracted from 25.2% to 21.9%.
A question regarding the permanency of the contraction of the margins of the Quaker Foods North America segment was asked, and the decreasing margins were explained as being due to increased COGS as a consequence of an improved formulation that eliminates artificials.
A question on Quaker. Quaker’s trend seems to be getting better, second quarter in a row that — of organic growth at Quaker, something not seen since 2015, if I’m correct. So could you please give us more granularity in those results, especially, and it’s not necessarily what we are seeing in Nielsen data? And how sustainable this trend is in your view? And also, I mean, this growth seems to be coming at the expense of operating income, which seems to be a change of strategy this year versus the last few years. Should we think about operating margins to continue to compress to sustain the growth here?
Good question, Laurent. Of course, we want each one of our businesses to be a positive growth business, so Quaker, no different. We will continue to invest to make sure that business continues to grow, maybe not at the levels that we have Frito-Lay, but just good levels.
We’ve done several things with that business. One is we invested a bit more, both in CapEx and on cost of goods. Cost of goods, specifically in the area of improving the formulation of our Quaker products. So we’ve eliminated all the artificials, now it’s only natural and I think that will do well for the brand going forward. Although it’s quite an important investment in terms of cost of goods. So that’s why you’re seeing the operating — the gross margin reducing a little bit in Quaker.
PepsiCo maintains its expectations in terms of operating cash flow $9B and cash returns to shareholders of approximately $8B.
Approximately $9 billion in cash from operating activities and free cash flow of approximately $5 billion, which assumes net capital spending of approximately $4.5 billion.
Total cash returns to shareholders of approximately $8 billion, comprised of dividends of approximately $5 billion and share repurchases of approximately $3 billion.
This expectation is in line with previous years. The free cash flow in recent years have suffered a bit from increased net capital spending and in particular from a reduced operating cash flow. Given the increased share price and the reduced free cash flow it makes that share repurchases have been decreasing since 2015. As a consequence of the reduced buybacks and the increasing share price PepsiCo currently has one of the lower buyback ratios compared to other US consumer staples.
PepsiCo is not cheap in absolute terms and neither relative to its peers nor its past. It’s probably not a time to buy, but given organic growth of four percent it’s probably not the time to sell either. Better consumer staples alternatives to buy might be Kraft Heinz [KHC], Unilever [UN, UNA.AS] or AB InBev [BUD, ABI.BR].
HP Inc. [HPQ] has announced its 2020 outlook and restructuring plan in a press release with the following headlines.
Estimates GAAP diluted net earnings per share (“EPS”) for fiscal 2020 of $1.98 to $2.10
Estimates non-GAAP diluted net EPS for fiscal 2020 of $2.22 to $2.32
Estimates fiscal 2020 free cash flow of at least $3.0 billion
Estimates total costs in connection with the restructuring plan of $1.0 billion and estimated annualized gross run rate savings of about $1.0 billion by the end of fiscal 2022
HP Inc. (“HP”) announces dividend increase of 10%
The incoming CEO Enrique Lores commented on the restructuring plan.
“We are taking bold and decisive actions as we embark on our next chapter.
We see significant opportunities to create shareholder value and we will accomplish this by advancing our leadership, disrupting industries and aggressively transforming the way we work.
We will become an even more customer-focused and digitally enabled company, that will lead with innovation and execute with purpose.”
The restructuring plan comes on the back of revenue dropping and being flat in multiple segments.
If free cash flow is indeed reduced to $3B, then free cash flow multiples in the absence of share price drops will expand by approximately 30%. One can probably expect a rocky ride until at least the Q3 earnings in November.
Reuters – PC maker HP to cut up to 9,000 jobs in restructuring push
Bloomberg – HP Tumbles as Analysts See ‘Turbulence Ahead’ With Restructuring
Bloomberg – HP to Cut as Much as 16% of Workforce Amid Print Unit Woes
H&M released their nine month report prior to the market opening on October 3rd. Some of the headlines from that report are:
With well-received summer collections, the H&M group’s net sales increased by 12 percent to SEK 62,572 m (55,821) in the third quarter. In local currencies,net sales increased by 8 percent compared with the corresponding quarter the previous year.
Online sales in the third quarter increased by 30 percent in SEK and by 25 percent in local currencies.
Gross profit increased by 13 percent to SEK 31,815 m (28,091). This corresponds to a gross margin of 50.8 percent (50.3).
Profit after financial items increased by 25 percent to SEK 5,011 m (4,012). The group’s profit after tax increased to SEK 3,859 m (3,099), corresponding to SEK 2.33 (1.87) per share.
Revenue, profits and margins
The figures below summarise the data for the trailing twelve months (TTM). Revenue continues to go up primarily as a consequence of improved sales in each store rather than new store openings.
The stabilised margins follow years of declining margins.
Price movement and multiples
H&M has unlike its Spanish competitor Inditex [$ITX.MC] seen its market capitalisation cut in more than half, which coincided with the deterioration of margins. The share price has gone up by approximately 54% from a 52 week low at the end of December 2018 of SEK125 to SEK192.
For a brief period of time in the winter of 2018 H&M sported a dividend yield above 7%.
The time to buy H&M was probably in 2018 or after the Q4 earnings on December 17th. But at that time there were doubts about the turnaround. However the share price started going up, when the chairman Stefan Persson bought more than 1% of the outstanding shares on February 5th and 12th. The H&M share price experienced a triple bottom at the end of 2018 (SEK125.18 on 26Mar2018, SEK121.28 on 03Sep2018, SEK126.02 on 24Dec2018) and the multiples were lower in 2018 and the beginning of 2019 than they are now. Below various multiples are summarised as time series and compared to those of competitors.
Time to buy?
Although H&M is still attractively valued, Gap Inc. [$GPS], which is trading a multi year lows, might prove to be the better investment from a value perspective at current prices, despite the inferior profit margins and the historically inferior return on invested capital (ROIC).
Reuters – H&M shares surge after first quarterly profit rise in two years
Bloomberg – H&M Earnings Return to Growth After Two-Year Slump
McCormick [MKC] has issued a press release on its third quarter earnings. The company increased its full year earnings per share outlook. Strong growth was shown in volume/mix and net sales despite currency headwinds and weaknesses in the flavor solutions segment and the EMEA consumer segments. The headlines of the quarter were as follows.
McCormick Reports Strong Third Quarter Performance And Increases Full Year Earnings Per Share Outlook
Earnings per share was $1.43 in the third quarter as compared to $1.30 in the year-ago period. Adjusted earnings per share rose 14% to $1.46 from $1.28 in the year-ago period.
Operating income was $254 million in the third quarter compared to $230 million in the year-ago period. Adjusted operating income was $261 million, a 9% increase from $239 million in the third quarter of 2018, and a 10% increase in constant currency.
Sales rose 1% in the third quarter from the year-ago period with gross margin expansion of 100 basis points. In constant currency, the company grew sales 2%.
For fiscal year 2019, McCormick continues to expect strong growth and based on its year-to-date performance raised its earnings per share outlook.
The consumer segment fueled growth, whereas the flavor solutions segments was a small drag on growth.
Growth in the EMEA segment was tempered by extreme high temperatures in Europe.
The operating margin expanded to 19.1% and 17.8% on a TTM basis, which is very high compared to industry peers. The improved operating margin also follows the divestiture of low margin businesses.
Revised financial outlook
The slide below summarises the revised financial outlook. This revised outlook comes at the back of earnings from other S&P500 companies that almost entirely involved lowered estimates.
Given the revised financial outlook and the improved margins the acquisition of RB Foods comes across as a master stroke. But McCormick remains very richly valued compared to other businesses in the sector. Kraft Heinz [KHC] might be the better choice at a forward P/E of 10.7 compared to a forward P/E of 27.6 for McCormick.
The earnings season kicks into gear this week with earnings from PepsiCo, Costco, McCormick, Constellations Brands and others. The week from October 14th to 18th sees JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, BoA, J&J, UnitedHealth, Coca Cola and others reporting. Revenue as well as dividends and stock repurchases are at all time highs, but operating income and operating cash flow seems to be suffering from the trade war between China and the US. The figures below summarise the numbers for S&P500 going into the earnings season.
Some companies have very high payout ratios and their dividend might be at risk of being cut going into a recession.