Express Scripts Inc.: An Unbelievable History Of Growth And A Great Future

| About: Express Scripts, (ESRX)

Express Scripts (NASDAQ:ESRX) has generated one of the best records of consistent earnings growth on the planet. As one of the largest pharmacy benefit management companies in the country, Express Scripts is a great demographic play considering the Graying of America. Furthermore, now that the odds that their $29 billion merger with Medco (NYSE:MHS) will go through, Express Scripts will be positioned as an even stronger player in this rapidly growing segment. It's also important to note that Medco also has a long history of consistent earnings growth. Therefore, the combined companies should complement each other extremely well. Consequently, investors seeking maximum capital appreciation by investing in a high-quality company with a bright future might look no farther than Express Scripts .

Growth stocks are defined as companies with high rates of change of earnings growth of 15% to 20% or better. Growth stocks offer the potential for share prices to rise in lockstep with their profit growth in the long run. Therefore, the PEG ratio formula (price equals growth rate) tends to be the most appropriate formula used to value growth stocks. However, due to the exponential nature of compounding large numbers, PEG ratio forecasts are capped at 40%.

Because of the higher valuation typically awarded to fast growth, growth stocks offer the potential for greater capital appreciation. On the other hand, they also offer higher risk. First of all, they tend to command much higher than average PE ratios, and second, achieving very high levels of growth is very difficult to sustain. Consequently, forecasting future earnings growth is more important with high growth stocks than any other class of stock. Also, the average growth stock typically ploughs all of its profits back into the company to fund its future growth, instead of paying dividends.

Express Scripts Inc.: Large-cap Growth at a Attractive Price

About Express Scripts Inc.: Directly from their website

"Express Scripts, Inc., one of the largest pharmacy benefit management companies in North America, is leading the way toward creating better health and value for patients through Consumerology®, the advanced application of the behavioral sciences to healthcare. This approach is helping millions of members realize greater healthcare outcomes and lowering cost by assisting in influencing their behavior.

Headquartered in St. Louis, Express Scripts provides integrated PBM services including network-pharmacy claims processing, home delivery services, specialty benefit management, benefit-design consultation, drug-utilization review, formulary management, and medical and drug data analysis services. The company also distributes a full range of biopharmaceutical products and provides extensive cost-management and patient-care services."

Earnings Determine Market Price: The following earnings and price correlated F.A.S.T. Graphs™ clearly illustrates the importance of earnings. The Earnings Growth Rate Line or True Worth™ Line (orange line with white triangles) is correlated with the historical stock price line. On graph after graph the lines will move in tandem. If the stock price strays away from the earnings line (over or under), inevitably it will come back to earnings.

Express Scripts Inc.: Historical Earnings, Price, Dividends and Normal PE Since 1998.

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Performance Table Express Scripts Inc.

The Two Keys to Long-Term Performance

Years of research and experience have taught us that there are two critically important keys to achieving above-average, long-term shareholder returns at reasonably controlled levels of risk. The first key is earnings growth, or what we like to call the rate of change of earnings growth. The faster a company can grow its business (i.e. earnings), the larger the income stream it can produce with which to reward shareholders. This is because of the power of compounding, which Albert Einstein was alleged to have called "the most powerful force on earth." Ultimately, both capital appreciation and dividend income will be a function of a company's ability to grow its profits.

The second key is valuation. When a company can be purchased at its intrinsic value based on earnings and cash flow generation, the shareholders' rate of return or long-term capital appreciation will inevitably correlate to and/or equal its earnings growth rate. Overvaluation will lower that rate of return and conversely, undervaluation will increase it. Consequently, paying strict attention to the valuation you pay to buy a stock is a critical component of both greater return and taking lower risk to achieve it. Because, ironically, when you overpay for even the best business, you simultaneously lower your return potential while increasing your risk of achieving the lower return.

The associated performance results with the earnings and price correlated graph, validates the above discussion regarding the two keys to long-term performance. Notice the impact that valuation (black line above or below orange earnings justified valuation line) had on the following performance results.

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The following graph plots the historically normal PE ratio (the dark blue line) correlated with 10-year Treasury note interest. Notice that the current price earnings ratio on this quality company is as low as it has been since 1998.

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A further indication of valuation can be seen by examining a company's current price to sales ratio relative to its historical price to sales ratio. The current price to sales ratio for Express Scripts Inc. is .56 which is historically normal.

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Looking to the Future

Extensive research has provided a preponderance of conclusive evidence that future long-term returns are a function of two critical determinants:

  1. The rate of change (growth rate) of the company's earnings
  2. The price or valuation you pay to buy those earnings

Forecasting future earnings growth, bought at sound valuations, is the key to safe, sound, and profitable performance.

Therefore, it logically follows that measuring performance without simultaneously measuring valuation is a job half done. Express Scripts Inc. is clearly an industry leading superior business, which based on the consensus estimates from leading analysts, appears to be capable of growing earnings at an above-average rate for the foreseeable future. At its current price, which is attractively aligned with its True Worth™ valuation, Express Scripts Inc. represents an opportunity for growth at a reasonable price. The important factor is that Express Scripts Inc., with its strong balance sheet and potential for future earnings growth, has real assets and cash flow underpinning its stock price. This solid economic foundation offers shareholders the potential for both a strong margin of safety and an opportunity for outsized future returns.

The Estimated Earnings and Return Calculator Tool is a simple yet powerful resource that empowers the user to calculate and run various investing scenarios that generate precise rate of return potentialities. Thinking the investment through to its logical conclusion is an important component towards making sound and prudent commonsense investing decisions.

The consensus of 21 leading analysts reporting to Capital IQ forecast Express Scripts Inc.'s long-term earnings growth at 17.7%. Express Scripts Inc. has medium long-term debt at 41% of capital. Express Scripts Inc. is currently trading at a P/E of 16.9, which is inside the value corridor (defined by the five orange lines) of a maximum P/E of 21.2. If the earnings materialize as forecast, Express Scripts Inc.'s True Worth™ valuation would be $144.73 at the end of 2017, which would be a 19% annual rate of return from the current price.

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Earnings Yield Estimates

Discounted Future Cash Flows: All companies derive their value from the future cash flows (earnings) they are capable of generating for their stake holders over time. Therefore, because Earnings Determine Market Price in the long run, we expect the future earnings of a company to justify the price we pay.

Since all investments potentially compete with all other investments, it is useful to compare investing in any perspective company to that of a comparable investment in low risk Treasury bonds. Comparing an investment in Express Scripts Inc. to an equal investment in 10 year Treasury bonds, illustrates that Express Scripts Inc.'s expected earnings would be 6.9 times that of the 10 Year T-Bond Interest. (See EYE chart below). This is the essence of the importance of proper valuation as a critical investing component.

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Summary And Conclusions

This report presented essential "fundamentals at a glance" illustrating the past and present valuation based on earnings achievements as reported. Future forecasts for earnings growth are based on the consensus of leading analysts. Although, with just a quick glance you can know a lot about the company, it's imperative that the reader conducts their own due diligence in order to validate whether the consensus estimates seem reasonable or not.

We believe that Express Scripts is a powerful growth stock that is currently trading at an unrealistically low valuation. Although there are never any guarantees when forecasting future rates of earnings growth, we believe that prospects for Express Scripts to continue growing earnings in excess of 15% per annum are as reliable as an investor could ever get. If we are right, then we also believe that today's valuation provides a compelling opportunity to compound your investment at significantly above-average long-term rates of return.

This is an extremely high-quality company with high earnings growth persistence and predictability. With healthcare such a hot political subject, companies like Express Scripts and Medco offer real solutions to the problem. We believe that the ability to help solve America's enormous healthcare problem represents a huge long-term opportunity.

Disclosure: I am long ESRX, MHS.

Disclaimer: The opinions in this document are for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell the stocks mentioned or to solicit transactions or clients. Past performance of the companies discussed may not continue and the companies may not achieve the earnings growth as predicted. The information in this document is believed to be accurate, but under no circumstances should a person act upon the information contained within. We do not recommend that anyone act upon any investment information without first consulting an investment advisor as to the suitability of such investments for his specific situation.