Thursday, 19 February 2015

What price am I planting my 'look again' flag re Wal-Mart shares?

I observed in November that I felt that relative value in the international food retail space lay more in stocks like Tesco than Wal-Mart.  After a bumpy start that call worked out ok:

Which brings us back to Wal-Mart who reported today.  Of course all the headlines are about the employee friendly initiatives the company is enacting but for me the big US operating takeaways are not just dull like-for-like sales and (due to modest margin decline) small reductions in operating profitability...
...but that the company did not replicate last year's share repurchasing.  

Actually looking at a two year Wal-Mart share price chart you can probably see why.  As good guardians of capital better to buy back shares at a lower price.  

Of course the whole global food retail environment is a bit challenged too.  Whilst four of the company's largest five international divisions saw better gross profit rates, two saw lower net sales.  

Nevertheless international is a little stronger than the core US operations as is Sam's Club (helped by fuel sales in particular).  Still the greater influence of the core US business means that it could well be a no growth EPS year (as the guidance encompasses the FY14A earnings number):

With Wal-Mart trading at x11.8 EV/ebit FY15e with a 2.2% yield (but a stronger 5.8% free cash flow yield).  At those metrics it feels to me more a balance sheet story than a valuation one today.  On this basis around a US$78 share price the company starts to look more interesting (x11 EV/ebit/balance sheet options/technical support).  I will put a flag there.

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