Last week, Foot Locker, Inc. (FL) reported a great quarter, reporting record earnings of $.90 per share ($138 million total) for the three-month period ended May 4th, 2013. As noted by Ken Hicks, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors, this represents the second year in a row that the company has posted record quarterly EPS figures. What is even more impressive however is that these record earnings were led in large part by strong sales growth. Yes, I said sales growth. While the S&P 500 saw a first quarter revenue growth rate of a mere 1.3%, the specialty athletic retailer posted sales growth of 3.8% (4.1% excluding foreign currency losses). Store traffic also increased during the quarter as suggested by a 5.2% spike in same-store sales.
On May 8th, Foot Locker, Inc. finally signed a definitive agreement to purchase Runners Point Group (RPG), a German-based athletic retailer that operates over 200 stores throughout Germany, The Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria, and that generated roughly $255 million in revenues last year. CEO Ken Hicks believes that this acquisition will enable Foot Locker to take more traction in Germany, which he feels is the "strongest economy in Europe." Runners Point Group has an extremely low level of debt, and is growing at a fast pace. Runners Point Group has a strong portfolio of brand names as well; among them, Sidestep - a quickly growing, Lululemon-esque (LULU) fashion-oriented athletic wear brand. The CEO also feels that the company can capitalize on RPG's technological capabilities to grow their emerging online sales base via Tredex, an e-commerce company under the RPG umbrella.
Returning Cash to Shareholders
While Foot Locker was unable to buy back any shares during the acquisition period, the company will, once again, begin repurchasing in the second quarter. The company did miss a few solid opportunities to make buybacks during the quarter (that could have resulted in a 15% gain), however shares have recently pulled back roughly 8% from 2013 highs representing another possibly entry point. Also, on May 15th, Foot Locker announced a dividend of $.20 cents per share- an increase in payout rates of roughly 5%.
Fundamentals and Valuation
Foot Locker is squeaky clean. The company operates at a margin of 10% on 3.8% sales growth over the last quarter and 7.8% over last year's quarter one. The company also holds over $1.1 billion in cash and cash-equivalents with just $130 million in debt, meaning that it can easily cover its short term liabilities with its liquid assets (current ratio=3.81).
In terms of relative valuation, the Foot Locker has a price-to-forward-earnings ratio of only 11.9. This number is lower than its peer group average of 17 and is actually the lowest of all 11 of its closest competitors [in terms of market capitalization and model - Michael Kors (KORS), Nordstrom (JWN), Urban Outfitters (URBN), Carter's (CRI), Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF), to name a few]. Footlocker also seems attractive in terms of price-to-earnings growth rates- falling in line with the industry average of 1.1.
Foot Locker's management team has been vigilant in controlling debt and cash flows, and seems serious about expanding into new geographic regions. "During the first quarter, the company opened 25 new stores, remodeled/relocated 64 stores and closed 39 stores. As of May 4, 2013, the Company operated 3,321 stores in 23 countries in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand." They have also closely monitored the performance of each retail location, and plan to close 88 more poorly performing locations to open 73 new stores over the current quarter. The company does have a strong balance sheet, and record revenues, but what is more attractive is the relative valuation. Based on the pro-growth strategy that Foot Locker has recently employed, and the recent acquisition of Runners Point Group, I feel that Foot locker should trade at a multiple of roughly 17 times forward earnings- at least in line with its industry average. This could result in a per-share price in the mid-40s.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.