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  • Seven Year Average Revenue Growth Rate: 4.2%
  • Seven Year Average EPS Growth Rate: 1.6%
  • Seven Year Average Dividend Growth Rate: 9.4%
  • Current Dividend Yield: 2.83%
  • Balance Sheet Strength: Perfect

The company has a good foundation for growth after a difficult few years, but the current price in the low $90′s leaves little or no margin of safety.

Overview

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) was founded in 1886 and today is the largest and among the most diverse of health care companies in the world. The company consists of three segments: Medical Devices, Pharmaceuticals, and Consumer.

Medical Devices and Diagnostics Segment
This segment was responsible for $27.4 billion in sales in 2012, which is up 6.4% from the previous year. Orthopaedics is the largest unit, accounting for over a quarter of the sales from this segment. Surgical care is the next largest unit, accounting for nearly a quarter of segment sales. The remaining units are vision care, diabetes care, specialty surgery, cardiovascular care, diagnostics, and infection.

Pharmaceuticals Segment
Johnson and Johnson brought in $25.4 billion in sales for 2012 with pharmaceuticals, and this figure was up 4% from the previous year. Immunology is the largest pharmaceutical unit (nearly a third of segment sales), followed by neuroscience (about a quarter of segment sales), infectious diseases, oncology, and other.

Consumer Segment
Consumer sales were $14.4 billion in 2012, and this figure was down 2.9% from the previous year. OTC is the largest unit accounting for nearly a third of segment sales. Skin care is another big unit, accounting for a quarter of segment sales. Other units are baby care, oral care, women's health, and wound care.

Valuation Metrics

Price to Earnings: 20.7
Price to Free Cash Flow: 21.2
Price to Book: 3.8

Revenue

(click to enlarge)
(Chart Source: DividendMonk.com)

The revenue growth rate over the latest seven year period was about 4.2% per year on average. Over the trailing twelve month period, the company has sustained strong revenue growth, going from $67.2 billion in 2012 to about $70 billion over the last four quarters.

Earnings and Dividends

(click to enlarge)
(Chart Source: DividendMonk.com)

The EPS growth rate over this period was only 1.6%. But, EPS for the trailing twelve month period is much higher than it was in 2012, and using that adjusted time period, the EPS growth rate is 2.7%. Overall, JNJ has had weak earnings growth.

The dividend growth rate over this period has been a solid 9.4% per year, which when combined with a yield of 3% or so represents very solid long-term returns. The dividend payout ratio from earnings however, has increased over the last decade from comfortably under 40% to nearly 60%.

Approximate historical dividend yield at beginning of each year:

YearYield
Current2.9%
20133.5%
20123.5%
20113.5%
20103.0%
20093.0%
20082.5%
20072.2%
20062.1%
20051.8%

The yield for Johnson and Johnson is currently at a low point. Although JNJ boosted its dividend for 2013, the fact that the stock price roared from the low $70′s to the low $90′s during the year to date, has increased the valuation and decreased the current dividend yield.

How Does JNJ Spend Its Cash?

During the fiscal years of 2010, 2011, and 2012, the company brought in nearly $38 billion in free cash flow. Over the same period, the company paid about $18.5 billion in dividends, another $18.2 billion on share repurchases, and about $8.5 billion on net acquisitions.

Balance Sheet

Johnson and Johnson is one of only a very few non-financial companies that maintains a perfect AAA credit rating. The total debt/equity ratio is about 21%, and less than a third of existing shareholder equity consists of goodwill. The existing amount of total debt is less than 1.2x the annual net income figure, and the interest coverage ratio is 35x, which is extremely well-covered. The company generates positive free cash flow each year from a highly diverse sales base, and often it's a higher figure than net income.

Investment Thesis

The company has started fresh with a relatively new CEO (of which there have only been 7 in over 120 years of operating history) with substantial industry experience, and with several difficult years behind the company, the next few years look brighter.

Johnson & Johnson is often viewed as the quintessential blue chip stock. The combination of a particularly strong balance sheet, five consecutive decades of annual dividend growth without a miss, strong free cash flow generation, and a highly diverse sales base, is hard to compare to any other company.

Most segments have various durable economic advantages which help to protect their cash flows. For example, the pharmaceutical segment, like other pharmaceutical companies, uses a series of patents to maintain a consistent pipeline and portfolio of patented drugs, and because of their size, they can fund the largest of R&D projects or they can acquire drugs for their pipeline. This makes their pipeline rather consistent from year to year.

The medical devices segment is similar, with advanced patented devices created from one of the largest medical device segments in the world. The consumers segment is a bit different in that it relies on brand strength. Each of the three segments is supported by the others, so a weak pharmaceutical period can be balanced by strong medical device sales during that time, or as we saw in previous years, a weak consumer segment can be balanced by the pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Most of JNJ's products are protected from recessions due to their rather necessary nature, with the exception of some of their over-the-counter products which are vulnerable to market share losses to private label products during those times.

Risks

Although the company is large and well-diversified, the complex nature of the company results in numerous risks. 2010 was a particularly difficult year for the company, as they recalled 43 over-the-counter medications due to systemic quality control issues in their subsidiary that is responsible for this lineup of products, recalled hip replacements due to a revision ratio that was far above acceptable levels, and faced a shareholder lawsuit regarding these quality issues and other aspects of company governance.

The pharmaceuticals segment, like any company in the industry, has pipeline risk. It can take billions of dollars to develop or acquire a blockbuster drug, and a weak pipeline of upcoming drugs can mean that sales will be lackluster in upcoming years. Unexpected events of drugs failing approval or showing to be ineffective can be a major blow to the segment. Currently the pipeline is strong, and unlike pure pharmaceutical companies, Johnson & Johnson buffers this risk with their other business segments.

Litigation is a constant risk for any large health care company, because so many lives are affected so dramatically. Products can mean the difference between life and death for patients, and something like a hip replacement that has a revision rate of over 10% compared to the typical and acceptable 1% can mean major financial losses, recalls, and/or litigation.

Conclusion and Valuation

There's little doubt that overall, JNJ is a particularly strong company. Just about every metric is spectacular, from the balance sheet to the cash flow generation to the diversification to the dividend safety. Still, the company does have downsides.

Growth has been poor in the recent several years due to the recalls which were acting as anchors on profitability, as well as the financial crisis and recession to a limited extent. On one hand, the fact that the company weathered a cluster of problems with flat sales base and earnings base shows the strength of the company. On the other hand, several years of poor growth does have a major negative impact on shareholder returns.

With a strong pipeline and with better quality oversight in place, the company is in a good state for growth going forward. The one problem, of course, is valuation. Johnson & Johnson outperformed the S&P 500 by nearly 10% year to date, and the S&P 500 itself outperformed its average growth rate during 2013 to reach record highs. Last year in the JNJ stock analysis report, I stated similar views about JNJ- that it was in a good position for growth (which based on revenue growth has been true), but at that time the stock was in the high $60′s and I was cautiously optimistic about it being a buying opportunity at that price.

Now at $93/share, we're looking at a similar situation with a much higher valuation. Using the earnings multiple valuation approach, if the company grows EPS by 8% per year over the next 7 years on average, and we place an earnings multiple of 18x on the stock at the end of that seventh year, then the price will be around $138. The investor will have received about $26 in dividends per share, and if reinvested, can expect another $8 or so in value. The seventh year value therefore would be $184, which is roughly double the current value. This translates into a rate of return of about 9%, which is not bad on a conservative dividend payer.

But that doesn't leave any margin of safety. If EPS growth averages only 7%, the rate of return under the same circumstances would be down to a bit over 8%, and if the earnings multiple at that time is 16 instead of 18, the annual rate of return is down to about 7%.

In conclusion, I believe that few investors would be disappointed several years from now with a purchase of JNJ stock today, but I don't think it's in a good position to outperform unless estimates use very optimistic growth estimates. So, the price is fair but not ideal, in my view. The yield is historically low for the company at 2.83%, and I believe a wiser play would be to wait for the growth to catch up with the valuation and see if the stock becomes available at a lower earnings multiple of under 20, and with a yield of over 3%.

Disclosure: As of this writing, I am long JNJ. You can see my dividend portfolio here.

Source: Johnson & Johnson: Let It Dip To A 3% Yield