SuperValu Update: Safer And Cheaper

Jan.31.12 | About: SUPERVALU Inc. (SVU)

Several quarters ago, SuperValu (NYSE:SVU) was discussed on this site as a potential opportunity for regular investors to participate in what looked like a leveraged-buyout type investment play. A few months after that article, shares were higher by about 25%. But today, shares of SuperValu can be had for 20% cheaper than their price when that article was published, even though the company is less risky now than it was then!

The biggest risk to this company is its large debt load (as is common in LBO situations). This is what the company's debt maturities looked at the time of the original article (note that the company generates about $1 billion per year in operating cash flow):

Fast forward a few quarters, and now added to the above chart are the debt maturities the company faces today (in red):

Through a combination of repayments (from SuperValu's ability to generate steady cash flow) and refinancing, the company looks a lot safer today. But even though the debt is lower, so is the market value of equity! With operating income steady at around $1 billion per year (adjusted for Goodwill and intangible write-downs that were created through acquisitions of a previous management), this leads to an EV/EBIT ratio of just 7.5.

With further debt repayments on the way (management expects to pay down $750 million more over the next two years from internally generated funds), that ratio should continue to shrink unless the market value of equity rises or EBIT falls. On future EBIT, the company's cost-cutting efforts are going well, which has allowed SuperValu to cut prices while maintaining margins. This should lead to increased competitiveness, holding the company's EBIT steady at the very least.

SuperValu's LBO-like characteristics are still present, but the company is safer and cheaper now than it was in the past. This opportunity may offer strong upside potential for those willing to take on a bit of downside risk.

* Note that the charts do not include SuperValu's capital lease obligations of approximately $1 billion

Disclosure: Author has a long position in shares of SVU