August 25, 2015

Wild Monday

I'd like to start this off by emphasizing the current situation in US equity markets. Putting it in perspective we have been on a historic bull run since the March lows of 2009. Nothing compares historically to the 1982 to 2000 run but this has been up there. Lately the market has been going straight up. These kinds of corrections in bull markets are good because it keeps the pace slow and steady and avoids a bubble crash. Let's face it valuations have been getting a little ahead of themselves on US companies. Netflix NFLX was trading at a price to earnings multiple P/E of 200. Other big tech companies like Amazon AMZN, Apple AAPL were getting expensive to. Geez, not even mentioning Tesla Motors, GoPro, Alibaba etc etc. These are all falling. They are right to fall.

The media gets over-dramatic about other economies. The US economy has been doing pretty well considering the rest of the world. Don't quote me verbatim but roughly a 1% change in GDP in Europe only effects US GDP 1/4%. It is a global economy now but I'm not convinced the US is going to go into a deep recession because of China or any other Region. There may well be a recession. I don't think it would be a bad thing. Recessions are a healthy part of economic growth. Greenspan did everything he could to prevent them and look at the bubble it created. Bernanke to.  Slow and steady is good.

I just did a post on my trading blog about some of the things that went on early Monday morning during the US session. I don't know if all of the media is reporting it but we did in fact trigger circuit breakers within 30 minutes of the open. Circuit Breakers are "safe-guards" the stock exchanges put in place to stop a crashing market. A drop of 7% on the Dow Jones or S&P 500 index triggers a level one circuit breaker and the market is halted for 15 minutes. We reached that 7% threshold on the S&P just minutes after the open.

August 9, 2015

Energize The Portfolio With Planet Fitness (PLNT)

Get The Portfolio In Shape With Planet Fitness (PLNT)
Greetings investors across the globe! Amidst the latest economic data on jobs and speculation on the FED raising rates I have something different. I have a stock analysis. A couple of days ago Planet Fitness (PLNT) a fitness center went public on the New York Stock Exchange. I know this company well. I am a black card member of Planet Fitness. I've been going to Planet Fitness for about a year now. The thing I like the most about it is I pay $19.99 a month and I can go to any location I want. I go to two different locations that are open 24/7. There is a Planet Fitness a block from my apartment and there is another one near my work! Tomorrow after work I'm going to stop by the one next to work. A couple of days ago I was at the one near my place. The black card is actually the highest tier of membership and it's still only $19.99. The other membership tier is cheaper and is $10. With my membership I get access to the massage chair for free, tanning, 1/2 price cooler drinks and probably a lot of other perks I'm not aware of or won't use. Some clubs have hydromassage, haircuts and 20% off Reebok apparel.

One of the reasons the company has been so successful is it is marketed to the broad population. It's marketed as a welcoming, non-intimidating "judgment free zone." It appeals to people who are just getting started. It's not a typical bodybuilding "gym." "This exceptional value proposition is designed to appeal to a broad population, including occasional gym users and the approximately 80% of the U.S. and Canadian populations over age 14 who are not gym members, particularly those who find the traditional fitness club setting intimidating and expensive." There are no free weight barbells. It doesn't attract the steroid using bro's who need huge plates to squat. They do have plenty of free weights but they are dumbbells. There is a squat rack, smith machine, pull-down cables and plenty of weights. There is also every necessary piece of equipment for whatever your fitness goal. They cover it all. The place is big.

Why Is This A Good Stock?
With the economy doing well people are spending money on all sorts of discretionary industries. I recently heard that Americans are spending more on eating out at than ever before. The government jobs report that came out Friday noted that one of the strongest job growth industries is leisure. So the bottom line is people are spending. I believe they are willing to spend $10 to $20 a month on a gym membership. The growth of Planet Fitness proves this. They have grown from 389 stores in 2010 in 39 states to 918 stores in 47 states, Canada and Puerto Rico for the year end 2014. They are one of the largest and fastest growing fitness centers in the country. If there is a trend toward healthy living fitness centers and gyms will reap the rewards of that trend.

The thing I love about this company is they are growing from franchising.  Everyone knows about the Mcdonald's (MCD) growth story. The way they grew so fast and so profitable was from franchising. Same here. Planet Fitness has had same store sales growth since 2010. Planet Fitness franchised locations are growing same store sales twice as fast as corporate locations! For the year of 2010 franchisee owned locations grew same store sales 14% and corporate owned grew 5.7%. In 2011 they both grew 3%, in 2012 franchise were 8.7% corporate 4.8%,  2013 franchise were 9.1% vs 6.1%, 2014 11.5% vs 5.4% and in the last quarter 2015 franchisee sales almost tripled with 11.7% vs corporate 4.6%.

There have been 33 straight quarters of same store sales growth. Here is the companies growth in pictures.

When you invest in a stock you ask, what could go wrong? I don't see the franchising model failing this company. Infact I see it as a major catalyst for serious growth. One thing that could happen is they try to grow to fast which will hurt them. That's a bridge to cross if we get there though. There are roughly 900 locations nationwide and the company sees potential for 4,000 in the US.

Numbers and Valuation
Not only does the company have revenue and earnings growth they generate a lot of free cash flow. Free cash flow in 2013 was $60 million. In 2014 there was $25 million. Free cash flow is great to see in any business. Some have zero! Just how profitable is this company? Net profit margin for the full year 2014 was 13%. This is a good net margin. They are carrying a good bit of debt. They were bought by private equity a couple years ago and I'm not sure if that had something to do with the debt. The balance sheet is fine none the less. The current ratio is .94. I like to see 1.0 or greater for a current ratio but this is close enough.

Now the sexy stuff. Earnings. Earnings from 2013 to 2014 grew 48% from $25 million to $37 million. They can definitely grow. Earnings per share for 2014 was $.24. Off of a stock currently trading at $18 the trailing price to earnings (PE) multiple is 75. This seems expensive, however, if they continue to grow like they have this is a fair price at $18 a share. This is a growth stock. Let's take a more common example of PE valuation. A company grows earnings 10% a year. The PE is 20 and we call that a healthy PE premium for a quality company growing at 10%. The PE for Planet Fitness in that scenario would be close to 100.

 I see the floor for the stock price at $12 a share. At $12 a share it is trading at a multiple equal to its earnings growth. A 50 PE or the growth rate puts us at $12 a share. Growth stocks are great because there is often multiple expansion as more people want to be a part of fast revenue and earnings growth. The downside with them is if the multiple gets to far ahead of real growth the stock is priced for disappointment on any negative news. This stock has a long way to go before it gets to that point. I see a lot of potential for share price growth with Planet Fitness over coming years.


August 6, 2015

Lands End (LE) Fashion at Clearance Prices

Lands End ticker symbol (LE) has been selling clothes for decades. I remember distinctly the catalogs they mailed out in the 90s. I may have even had a jacket or shirt I got from Lands End back then. Not long ago the company was spun off from Sears. The apparel industry is a highly competitive industry. They have been around in one form or another since the 1960s no less. The company was founded in 1963 by Gary Comer in Chicago. They started out selling sailboat equipment. I imagine they will be around in another decade.

The first thing I noticed about Lands End currently is the price to earnings multiple is pretty low. The PE is 15. The very next thing I did is look at the yearly cash flow statement. There was $211 million in cash flow from operating activities. There was $16 million in capital expenditures.  I take 211 minus 16 and we get $195 million in free cash flow. Free cash flow is the money the company has left over after it pays bills. They can either re-invest it in the business or return money to shareholders.  It is always good to see robust free cash flow numbers. I'm about to run one more calculation and we are about to discover just how cheap Lands End really is.

The market cap of the company currently is $762 million. That number divided by the $195 in free cash flow give us a price to free cash flow multiple of 3.9. So the price to free cash flow of Lands End is about 4. Wow! Just wow. That is a super low multiple for a company like this. A lot of investors will actually put a lot more weight on cash flow figures. Some people run extensive spreadsheets that do discount free cash flow projections. With these kind of low valuations I wouldn't be surprised if a Lands End file isn't being emailed around the office of some private equity or one of Lands Ends competitors. I'm not saying there is or will be I just could imagine it.

So I saw this valuation and kept looking around the financials expecting to see a company on the brink of destruction. Earnings are down recently and earnings guidance is down from $2.00 to $1.46 per share. Pretty bad but how bad? I looked at the income statement again. I looked at sales over the past couple years. The past couple of years had flat sales growth. Sales were almost exactly the same as last year. Net income is flat too. This isn't great but they are holding in there. It's almost a billion dollar company too. It's harder to grow sales fast at giant companies.

I read about their customer base. "We believe our customer base consists primarily of affluent, college-educated, professional and style-conscious women and men. In fiscal 2014 our customers had average household income of $105,000 and approximately 42% of our customers were within the 35-54 age group. "

Looking at more valuations and ratios we have a price to sales ratio of .48. Obsurd. We have return on equity of 17%. A return on equity over 10% is very good. Pushing 20% we have a one of a kind golden business. If they can do 17% ROE in a mediocre year they can do 19-20%. A solid return on equity is meaningless, however, if low debt levels are not maintained. You will see high ROE numbers in a lot of industries like auto's and manufacturing but they blow up huge debt bubbles. Lands End's liabilities are stable. Long-term debt is actually down some even this quarter. Long-term debt is down $4 million since Aug 2014. They do carry a lot of debt with debt to equity around 1 but this debt is manageable. Lands End also has $181 million in cash on the balance sheet.

Trying to do a relative valuation is a little pointless. Some companies in this industry do well and have high valuations. Some do poorly and have low valuations. The industry is so competitive I'm not sure looking at other companies helps. I looked at a few though. Companies doing well like Under Armour (UA) has a PE ratio of 90! It has a price to sales ratio of 6. I think Columbia Sportswear (COLM) is pretty apples to apples with Lands End. Columbia has a price to sales ratio of 2 and PE ratio of 30.

The bottom line is will these bad results Lands End has been experiencing lately with sales continue? I don't think the valuation makes since. If sales improve just marginally the valuation could be 20,25 times earnings easily. This is the kind of company that can fetch a 20 PE in a bull market easily. So the way I look at it is over the next few years if things are going well for the company earnings could be $2.00 a share. The stock could be $40 to $50 a share and the compounded yearly return from the current stock price of $23 to $40 or $50 is worth it. There is a brand "moat" in this one and I see them defending the castle through this battle.

August 4, 2015

Net Net SORL Is Cheap

I've made a couple posts on SORL Auto Parts over the past couple of years. Nothing has changed much with the companies long-term fundamentals. The only thing that has changed significantly is the stock price. It's net current asset value has actually increased from 2013 when it was $124 million and 2014's of $129 million. Right now $141.7 is the net current asset value of SORL. It still sells brakes and auto parts in China. It's a major player in commercial brakes. What I didn't realize about SORL before is how diversified it is internationally. 73% of its business is in China but 27% is international in 104 countries including the United States, UAE and Europe. I'm always skeptical of Chinese companies so I looked around to see if I could find info on where they are sold in the US. I didn't see anything which likely is because they are sold directly wholesale to big companies with commercial trucks. I did find some parts on Alibaba.

The stock is cheaper relative to NCAV than in 2013 with the market cap back at $50 million, NCAV at $141 million and the stock at 2.72. It is priced at 36% of net current asset value. I do believe this would even meet Benjamin Graham's margin of safety requirement! Sales have grown steadily every year since atleast as far back as 2012. Yet the current price to sales multiple is .23. Below 1 is low for about any decent company. The company is profitable yet the PE ratio is 3. On the balance sheet the current ratio is 3.6. Healthy. A cool $18 million in free cash flow in 2014.

I'm very bullish on China over the long-term and I would expect this correction currently going on in the overall China market to end sooner than later. The current PE multiple on the stocks in FXI is around 10-11. If you can get major Chinese companies for single digit PE's that is cheap. Not to mention some dividend yield too. SORL has a lot of support until 2.50. I think the fundamentals make it a compelling buy here.