Jacobs Engineering: Fundamental Analysis Suggests Strong Infrastructure Play

| About: Jacobs Engineering (JEC)

By Ryan Johnson and Rob Weigand

David Fessler wrote a compelling recommendation in favor of Jacobs Engineering (NYSE:JEC) on June 26, summarizing the many compelling macroeconomic themes that favor this stock right now:

  • The need for higher capacity transmission lines to move power from the midwest to the densely populated coasts.
  • Larger pipelines to move natural gas from Alaska and Canada to the lower 48 states.
  • Storage facilities for both oil and natural gas.
  • Liquid natural gas terminals in the U.S. and other countries.

Additionally, Fessler notes:

Jacobs has over 100 years of experience in the gasification and carbon-capture technologies, electrical transmission systems, and power and switching plants . . . [and] is active in the development of renewable energy projects, including wind farms, tidal power, hydro-power, tidal stream and waste energy plants.

Some commenters on Fessler’s article asked for a complementary financial analysis of the stock — we provide a brief analysis below. As is the case with all the stocks we run through our process, we analyzed JEC’s financials for the past 5 years and forecasted their financials for the next 10 based on the following assumptions:

  • Average growth in revenues for the next 5 years of 20%, tapering to 6% by year 10, growing at 4% per year thereafter.
  • Ratios held stable at their historical averages in the forecast include COGS/Sales at 85.8%, SG&A/Sales at 9.7%, an effective tax rate of 36.0%, Cash/Sales of 5.5%, and PPE/Sales of 2.6% (pay particular attention to this last ratio in the analysis below).
  • JEC does not pay a dividend and we did not forecast a dividend initiation.
  • Beta of 1.5, cost of equity of 13.5%, and because they carry almost no debt, a weighted average cost of capital (WACC) of 13.4%.

Jacob’s 5-year historical compound revenue growth is 25.3%. Normally, with the global recession, we’d be concerned about a huge dropoff in revenues in 2009. With the resurgence of government spending and the compelling need for world spending on infrastructure, however, we’re confident that JEC will only grow slightly more slowly in the next 5 years (average of 20% per year).

JEC’s margins are low, but consistent with the rest of their industry, including McDermott (NYSE:MDR), Quanta (NYSE:PWR) and Fluor (NYSE:FLR):

JEC-Margins

Although our forecast assumptions result in stable margins over the next 10 years, note that if JEC increases the mix of government-funded contracts in its portfolio, these will tend to have a positive effect on their margins (as governments wastefully pay higher prices than private-sector firms).

Jacbos’ ROA and ROE are not particularly high, but unlike many firms, their historical and forecasted ROIC is much higher — close to 20% historically and a little higher in our forecasts — due to their efficient balance sheet management (driven primarily by the low PPE/Sales ratio cited above).

JEC-ROIC

The key point here is, even using a very high WACC hurdle for this firm (13.4%), their ROIC is well above the WACC, which is one of the principle drivers of long-term value creation. Add in the fact that JEC is likely to grow at 20% per year into that robust ROIC – WACC spread, and the stock is well below its high of $86 from last year (recently trading at $41), and the story on JEC begins to get interesting.

JEC-NOPAT-FCF

Jacobs has had good growth in Net Operating Profit After Tax (NOPAT) and Free Cash Flow (FCF) historically. After forecasting a slight decline in 2009, we predict that growth in these items is likely to resume over the forecast horizon.

JEC-EVA-MVA

The consistent growth in NOPAT and FCF means Jacob produces positive EVA (Economic Value Added) and MVA (Market Value Added). All JEC has to do to continue growing these value-creation metrics is grow revenues 5% slower over the next 5 years, taper down to 4-6% in 10 years, and maintain its other ratios at their historical averages.

JEC-Short-Interest

Jacobs had an abrupt rise in its short interest in Summer-07, but short interest subsided in 2008-2009.

JEC-Days-to-Cover

JEC’s Days to Cover ratio has been more stable because the increase in short interest was accompanied by a general increase in trading volume as JEC began attracting the attention of traders in 2007.

JEC-Volume

Insider selling in JEC is modest (most firms have cumulative insider selling over time as insiders diversify their holdings):

JEC-Insider

JEC scores a solid 10 out of 11 on the extended Piotroski Financial Fitness Evaluation Scorecard:

JEC-Piotroski

And their Altman Bankruptcy Z-Score of 5.2 is triple-A compared to most firms these days.

JEC-Altman

Using the forecast assumptions outlined above, we obtain a discounted cash flow price on Jacobs of $50 a share, vs. its current price of $41. Overall, we think Dave Fessler has it right and Jacobs Engineering merits a strong buy recommendation, based on the macroeconomic themes outlined in his blog posting and the fundamental analysis provided above. We’d love to hear what you think about this and other infrastructure plays.