The fifth chapter of The Intelligent Investors is titled "The Defensive Investor and Common Stocks". In this chapter Benjamin Graham lays the conservative foundation for picking defensive stocks. Mr. Graham suggests four rules to guide the investor to fill their portfolio.
- There should be adequate though not excessive diversification. This might mean a minimum of ten different issues and a maximum of about thirty.
- Each company selected should be large, prominent, and conservatively financed. Indefinite as these adjectives must be, their general sense is clear. Observations on this point are added at the end of the chapter.
- Each company should have a long record of continuous dividend payments. To be specific on this point we would suggest the requirement of continuous dividend payments beginning at least in 1950. (From 1973)
- The investor should impose some limit on the price he will pay for an issue in relation to its average earnings over, say, the past seven years. We suggest that this limit be set at 25 times such average earnings, and not more than 20 times those of the last twelve-month period.
When looking at a company in trying to decide whether it is the right investment for us we need to take a look at different aspects of the company. While no one set of rules is a guarantee to pick the right investment, it can certainly help us decide if we want to look further into the company or cut it loose.
We are going to look at Hasbro Inc. (HAS) and run it through the above steps.
i. Hasbro Inc. manufactures and sells toys and family leisure games around the world. Hasbro has brands such as Transformers, Magic: The Gathering and My Little Pony.
ii. Graham's conditions for being a conservatively financed company are just that, conservative. When applying how stringent Grahams parameters are, only a small hand full of companies are picked. The point of this is to ensure that the company we add to our portfolio has enough assets to avoid bankruptcy if the economy turns south.
In an attempt to simplify and save time we are going to look at total assets vs. liabilities. We are looking for at least twice as many assets as liabilities or 200%. As of the first quarter 2013 Hasbro Inc. has $4,060,645,000 in assets and $2,597,557,000 in liabilities. The assets are 156% of liabilities.
iii. Graham wanted to see at least 20 years of paying consecutive dividends. Hasbro has been consecutively paying a dividend since 1981. Currently they have a payout ratio of 57%.
iv. A P/E of 20 at the current EPS of $2.52 is $50.40 a share. The earnings for the past seven years are as follows:
Based on an average EPS for the past seven years we get $2.26 a share and at a P/E of 25 we get a price point of $56.50 a share.
Graham set some stringent guidelines when selecting stocks. When we look at the framework constructed by investing legends it is a good practice to take what they have developed and adjust it to fit our needs and goals. Graham set the foundation of value investing. The framework he developed is still a great way to look at stocks in today's market.
Simply because a stock does or does not pass a rule set up by someone else does not mean you should or should not start a position in it. In the case of Hasbro Inc, there is more debt than Graham would like to see in a company. Hasbro has paid out uninterrupted dividends since 1981 with a current payout ratio of 57%. This is normal for a company that has paid out dividends for so long. However, if the ratio increases the defensive investor should be concerned with additional dividend growth in the future. Based on Graham's EPS valuation, Hasbro does have a history to suggest it to the defensive investor. The calculation based on EPS for the past twelve months and past seven years suggests, this is stock is underpriced at the moment. Although the current price may suggest a perception of a saturated toy market and tough competition eating away at market share.
It's up to the individual investor what investments are right for them. You can use all; any or none of Graham's teachings to help you decide what companies you wish to add to your portfolio. We're all trying to find that perfect stock that can help us build wealth and retire in comfort.