What The New Money Thinks About FedEx

| About: FedEx Corporation (FDX)


We don't think the new money finds FedEx that attractive. Let's find out why.

FedEx posts a Valuentum Buying Index score of 4, reflecting our 'fairly valued' DCF assessment of the firm, its attractive relative valuation versus peers, and bearish technicals.

We prefer more timely ideas for consideration, ones with Valuentum Buying Index ratings of 9 or 10.

As part of our process, we perform a rigorous discounted cash-flow methodology that dives into the true intrinsic worth of companies. Let's examine what we think FedEx (NYSE:FDX) is worth in this article and whether shares are timely for new money.

But first, a little background about us to help with the understanding of this article. At Valuentum, 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 (good value, good momentum, etc.), thereby revealing the greatest interest by investors (we like firms that fall in the center of the diagram below). More interest by a wide variety of investors --> more buying --> increased likelihood of price to fair value convergence.

At the core, if a company is undervalued both on a discounted cash-flow basis and on a relative valuation basis and is showing improvement in technical and momentum indicators, it scores high on our scale. For relative valuation purposes, we compare FedEx to peers CH Robinson (NASDAQ:CHRW), Uti Worldwide (NASDAQ:UTIW), and United Parcel Service (NYSE:UPS). We understand the pitfalls of relative valuation analysis, which is why we combine the relative valuation process with a rigorous discounted cash-flow exercise. We like to take a holistic view.

FedEx posts a Valuentum Buying Index score of 4 on our scale, reflecting our 'fairly valued' DCF assessment of the firm, its attractive relative valuation versus peers, and bearish technicals. To us, we think the new money doesn't find FedEx that attractive (on the basis of this rating). We prefer firms with higher Valuentum Buying Index ratings - firms that register a 9 or 10. These companies are not only underpriced on both a discounted cash flow and relative valuation basis but also are exhibiting strong technical and momentum indicators.

Our Report on FedEx

Investment Considerations

Investment Highlights

• FedEx's scores fairly well on our business quality matrix. The firm has put up solid economic returns for shareholders during the past few years with relatively low volatility in its operating results. Return on invested capital (excluding goodwill) has averaged 12.2% during the past three years.

• FedEx provides customers and businesses worldwide with a broad portfolio of transportation, e-commerce and business services. The company operates under various segments including: FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, FedEx Freight, and FedEx Services

• FedEx's cash flow generation and financial leverage aren't much to speak of. The firm's free cash flow margin has averaged about 1.5% during the past three years, lower than the mid-single-digit range we'd expect for cash cows. However, the firm's cash flow should be sufficient to handle its low financial leverage.

• FedEx's long-term financial goals are as follows: 1) achieve 10% operating margin; 2) increase EPS 10%-15% per year; 3) grow profitable revenue; 4) improve cash flows; 5) increase ROIC; 6) and increase the dividend. We like management's focus.

• Global trade growth and e-commerce continue to drive increased demand for FedEx's services. FedEx Express is becoming more efficient, FedEx Ground is gaining share, and FedEx Freight margins are rebounding.

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. FedEx's 3-year historical return on invested capital (without goodwill) is 12.2%, which is above the estimate of its cost of capital of 10.5%. As such, we assign the firm a ValueCreation™ rating of GOOD. 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.

Cash Flow Analysis

Firms that generate a free cash flow margin (free cash flow divided by total revenue) above 5% are usually considered cash cows. FedEx's free cash flow margin has averaged about 1.5% during the past 3 years. As such, we think the firm's cash flow generation is relatively MEDIUM. 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. At FedEx, cash flow from operations increased about 54% from levels registered two years ago, while capital expenditures expanded about 42% over the same time period.

Valuation Analysis

Our discounted cash flow model indicates that FedEx's shares are worth between $96-$160 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. In many cases, we think the wider the margin of safety, the wiser the investor. The estimated fair value of $128 per share represents a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of about 20 times last year's earnings and an implied EV/EBITDA multiple of about 7.4 times last year's EBITDA. Shares of FedEx are trading at more than $130 per share at the time of this writing. Our model reflects a compound annual revenue growth rate of 3.6% during the next five years, a pace that is lower than the firm's 3-year historical compound annual growth rate of 6.3%. Our model reflects a 5-year projected average operating margin of 9.3%, which is above FedEx's trailing 3-year average. Beyond year 5, we assume free cash flow will grow at an annual rate of 2.9% for the next 15 years and 3% in perpetuity. For FedEx, we use a 10.5% weighted average cost of capital to discount future free cash flows.

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 $128 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 FedEx. We think the firm is attractive below $96 per share (the green line), but quite expensive above $160 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.

Future Path of Fair Value

We estimate FedEx's fair value at this point in time to be about $128 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 FedEx'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 $172 per share in Year 3 represents our existing fair value per share of $128 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.

Pro Forma Financial Statements

In the spirit of transparency, we show how the performance of the Valuentum Buying Index has stacked up per underlying score, as it relates to firms in the Best Ideas portfolio:

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.