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As part of our process, we perform a rigorous discounted cash-flow methodology that dives into the true intrinsic worth of companies. In CarMax's (KMX) case, we think the firm is fairly valued at $32 per share, below where it is trading. However, our fair value range (which pegs the firm's valuation upside potential to $40) indicates the firm is still reasonably valued. Let's dig into this a bit.

First of all, we think a comprehensive analysis of a firm's discounted cash-flow valuation, relative valuation versus industry peers, as well as an assessment of technical and momentum indicators is the best way to identify the most attractive stocks at the best time to buy. This process culminates in what we call our Valuentum Buying Index, which ranks stocks on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best. Essentially, we're looking for firms that overlap investment methodologies, thereby revealing the greatest interest by investors (we like firms that fall in the center of the diagram below). Valuentum followers understand that more interest = more buying = a higher stock price.

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If a company is undervalued both on a DCF and on a relative valuation basis, it scores high on our scale. CarMax posts a VBI score of 5 on our scale, reflecting our 'fairly valued' DCF assessment of the firm, its neutral relative valuation versus peers, and neutral technicals. We compare CarMax with peers AutoNation (AN), AutoZone (AZO) and Penske (PAG).

Our Report on CarMax

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Investment Considerations

Investment Highlights

  • CarMax earns a ValueCreation™ rating of EXCELLENT, the highest possible mark on our scale. The firm has been generating economic value for shareholders for the past few years, a track record we view very positively. Return on invested capital (excluding goodwill) has averaged 18% during the past three years.
  • CarMax is the largest retailer of used cars in the U.S. and one of the largest vehicle auction operators. The firm tries to differentiate itself with no-haggle pricing and a customer-friendly sales process. Still, the used car market is fragmented and highly competitive.
  • Although we think there may be a better time to dabble in the firm's shares based on our DCF process, the firm's stock has outperformed the market benchmark during the past quarter, indicating increased investor interest in the company.
  • A little known fact is that CarMax was once under the ownership of the now-defunct Circuit City. It wasn't until 2002 that the CarMax business was separated from Circuit City to become a publicly traded company. The company has never looked back.

Business Quality

Economic Profit Analysis

The best measure of a firm's ability to create value for shareholders is expressed by comparing its return on invested capital (ROIC) with its weighted average cost of capital (WACC). The gap or difference between ROIC and WACC is called the firm's economic profit spread. CarMax's three-year historical return on invested capital (without goodwill) is 18%, which is above the estimate of its cost of capital of 8.8%. As such, we assign the firm a ValueCreation™ rating of EXCELLENT. In the chart below, we show the probable path of ROIC in the years ahead based on the estimated volatility of key drivers behind the measure. The solid grey line reflects the most likely outcome, in our opinion, and represents the scenario that results in our fair value estimate.

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Cash Flow Analysis

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Firms that generate a free cash flow margin (free cash flow divided by total revenue) above 5% are usually considered cash cows. CarMax's free cash flow margin has averaged about 0% during the past three years. As such, we think the firm's cash flow generation is relatively WEAK. The free cash flow measure shown above is derived by taking cash flow from operations less capital expenditures and differs from enterprise free cash flow (FCFF), which we use in deriving our fair value estimate for the company. For more information on the differences between these two measures, please visit our website at Valuentum.com. At CarMax, cash flow from operations dropped into negative territory from levels two years ago, while capital expenditures expanded about 670% during this time period.

Valuation Analysis

Our discounted cash flow model indicates that CarMax's shares are worth between $24.00 - $40.00 each. The margin of safety around our fair value estimate is driven by the firm's MEDIUM ValueRisk™ rating, which is derived from the historical volatility of key valuation drivers. The estimated fair value of $32 per share represents a price-to earnings (P/E) ratio of about 15.7 times last year's earnings and an implied EV/EBITDA multiple of about 22.8 times last year's EBITDA. Our model reflects a compound annual revenue growth rate of 8% during the next five years, a pace that is lower than the firm's 3-year historical compound annual growth rate of 10.2%. Our model reflects a 5-year projected average operating margin of 5.5%, which is above CarMax's trailing 3-year average. Beyond year 5, we assume free cash flow will grow at an annual rate of 4.8% for the next 15 years and 3% in perpetuity. For CarMax, we use a 8.8% weighted average cost of capital to discount future free cash flows.

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Margin of Safety Analysis

Our discounted cash flow process values each firm on the basis of the present value of all future free cash flows. Although we estimate the firm's fair value at about $32 per share, every company has a range of probable fair values that's created by the uncertainty of key valuation drivers (like future revenue or earnings, for example). After all, if the future was known with certainty, we wouldn't see much volatility in the markets as stocks would trade precisely at their known fair values. Our ValueRisk™ rating sets the margin of safety or the fair value range we assign to each stock. In the graph below, we show this probable range of fair values for CarMax. We think the firm is attractive below $24 per share (the green line), but quite expensive above $40 per share (the red line). The prices that fall along the yellow line, which includes our fair value estimate, represent a reasonable valuation for the firm, in our opinion.

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Future Path of Fair Value

We estimate CarMax's fair value at this point in time to be about $32 per share. As time passes, however, companies generate cash flow and pay out cash to shareholders in the form of dividends. The chart below compares the firm's current share price with the path of CarMax's expected equity value per share over the next three years, assuming our long-term projections prove accurate. The range between the resulting downside fair value and upside fair value in Year 3 represents our best estimate of the value of the firm's shares three years hence. This range of potential outcomes is also subject to change over time, should our views on the firm's future cash flow potential change. The expected fair value of $44 per share in Year 3 represents our existing fair value per share of $32 increased at an annual rate of the firm's cost of equity less its dividend yield. The upside and downside ranges are derived in the same way, but from the upper and lower bounds of our fair value estimate range.

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Pro Forma Financial Statements

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Source: Why CarMax Is Getting Pricey