5 Reasons This Retailer Looks Poised to Outperform

Chad is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

Sometimes as an investor you have to know when to ignore bad information. It's difficult to do because there is so much of it floating around. What I try to do whenever I read something about a stock I follow is, see if you can punch holes in the theories being presented. If you can't find anything wrong with the person's theory, then you add it to your knowledge about the company and adjust your thinking accordingly. With this in mind, I want to check out an article I recently read about Walmart (NYSE: WMT).

4 Reasons to sell the stock
I stand behind everything I've written and I hope that other authors do the same: however sometimes a post gets my attention and seems to call for a response. Consider this my response to a recent post about “Why Walmart Is A Sell.”

To be clear, I don't currently own Walmart, and I don't have a problem with the idea that popular stocks sometimes should be sold. This article suggests there are at least four reasons to sell the stock. Let's see if these theories make sense.

#1 – Competition is increasing from companies like Family Dollar (NYSE: FDO), Costco (NASDAQ: COST), and Amazon.com
#2 – U.S. Growth is slowing to about 1%
#3 – Walmart customer satisfaction is terrible
#4 – Valuation is on the higher side

2 things that never change
First, Walmart is no stranger to competition. Companies like Amazon.com and eBay are forcing the world's largest retailer to rethink some of its strategies. However, in Walmart's last earnings report, the company indicated that it took market share in the grocery, home, and electronics categories among others.

From a numbers perspective, Walmart's gross margin has compressed just slightly over the last few years, from 25.34% in 2011 to 24.85% in the company's most recent quarter. However, most of this compression has to do with the company's focus on trying to take grocery business, which is a lower margin endeavor.

While it's true that some of Walmart's competitors have better gross margins, this isn't true across the board. Amazon's best gross margin was just over 24%, and Costco routinely runs a gross margin in the mid-teens. While Target (NYSE: TGT) and Family Dollar carry margins of 28.88% and 33.42% respectively, these retailers don't have the same grocery offerings as Walmart.

The second reason to consider Walmart stock is, the company seems to continue growing sales in spite of its customer satisfaction measurements. In one sentence the post says that Walmart's customer satisfaction is, “going down the drain.” However, in the next sentence the same piece says this is, “the sixth year in a row that the company has either tied or taken last place” (in an American Customer Satisfaction survey). However, Walmart has grown overall sales by 4.5% on average in the last five years. As a former manager of mine once said, Walmart ought to just change their slogan to “our service is terrible, but we know you won't care because our prices are so cheap.”

The slowing growth illusion
The aforementioned article said that Walmart's U.S. Growth is slowing to about 1%. Unfortunately, that statement is just flat wrong.

This brings us to the third reason to consider the stock. Last year, Walmart opened 3.26% more U.S. Walmart and Sam's Club locations and reported a 2% increase in same-store sales. In addition, Walmart actually opened 8.79% more international locations. Between stealing market share from traditional grocers, and opening new stores internationally, Walmart's growth isn't slowing at all.

Valuation, cash, and dividends
One way to compare companies is something I call free cash flow per dollar of sales. Theoretically, a company that generates more free cash flow from each dollar of sales has either pricing power, more efficient operations, or both.

This gives us a fourth reason to consider Walmart. Using free cash flow per dollar of sales, the company actually leads its peer group. In the last four quarters, Walmart has generated an average of $0.03 of free cash flow for each dollar of sales. This is tied for first with Target with $0.03, and handily beats Costco at $0.01. By comparison, Family Dollar actually reported negative free cash flow on average in the last four quarters.

Last but not least, when you look at Walmart's yield, it leads its peers as well. The stock pays a 2.4% yield, compared to 2.09% at Target, 1.7% at Family Dollar, and 1.05% at Costco. The other article said this yield, “does not make it too attractive for dividend investors.” Again, this is short-sighted thinking.

In the last five years, Walmart's annual dividend has nearly doubled from $0.95 in 2009 to $1.88 today. Second, in the last three years, the average yield on the S&P 500 has ranged from 1.76% to 2.2%. I'm not sure how a yield that is growing, and already beats the S&P could be considered “not attractive.”

The bottom line is, Walmart's yield looks good, the company is winning business, carries a good margin, and generates peer leading cash flow. With shares changing hands at about 14.7 times projected earnings, the stock is also relatively cheaper than Target at 14.99 times, Family Dollar at 15.97, and Costco at 23 times earnings. As you can see, investors have more than enough reasons to consider not only holding their Walmart shares, but buying more at today's prices. If you want to keep up with what's happening at the world's largest retailer, consider adding WMT to your personalized Watchlist today.


Chad Henage owns shares of Target. The Motley Fool recommends Costco Wholesale. The Motley Fool owns shares of Costco Wholesale. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. Is this post wrong? Click here. Think you can do better? Join us and write your own!

blog comments powered by Disqus

Compare Brokers

Fool Disclosure