Danger Zone: Revlon

| About: Revlon, Inc. (REV)
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Summary

Profits have gone nowhere for a number of years.

Brand erosion is proving hard to reverse.

Current valuation makes Perelman buyout unlikely.

Revlon (NYSE:REV) is the Danger Zone this week. This makeup company has been fading fast since 2010. Expensive acquisitions and a marketing reboot have boosted the top line while destroying cash flow.

Revlon is up 30% so far this year, and many are saying that the stock is cheap. Others are holding on for the hope that majority owner Ron Pereleman will buy out the remaining 25% of the company.

Revlon is anything but cheap, and the stock will need to crater before anyone can expect a Pereleman rescue.

Profits Going Nowhere

The company's after-tax profit (NOPAT) has declined at a rate of 12% compounded annually since 2010. NOPAT margins have fallen from 12% in 2010 to 7% in 2013.

Revlon's return on invested capital (ROIC) has also fallen from 17% in 2010 to 10% in 2013. This downtrend follows the increase in acquisitions Revlon has undertaken to boost its top line. Revlon paid $665 for Colomer in 2013, $66 million for Pure Ice in 2012 and $39 million for Mirage Cosmetics in 2011. Management is spending capital on businesses that continually return less and less for Revlon.

Brand Erosion is Proving Hard to Reverse

According to the annual Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, Revlon was ranked 10th out of 12 cosmetics brands on the 2014 list. L'Oréal was No. 1.

This decline in Revlon's brand manifests in the company's sales. Excluding the boost from Colomer's sales, revenues in 2013 declined by over 1% when compared to 2012. This decline has continued into 2014, with overall sales dropping 0.3% year over year in Q3 on the back of a 1% drop in Revlon's consumer sales. Ad spending is up $25 million over last year and appears to have little positive effect on sales.

Three Red Flags

  1. Revlon has destroyed millions in shareholder value through asset write-downs. Management has accumulated $111 million in total write-downs, or 6% of the company's market value. Figure 1 shows the company's history of value destruction.

Figure 1: Historic Value Destroyer

Sources: New Constructs, LLC and company filings.

  1. Revlon has over $1.9 billion in total debt, which amounts to 123% of Revlon's net assets and 112% of its market cap. This number also includes $63 million in off-balance sheet debt due to operating leases. Revlon has just $178 million in cash and equivalents to cover its debt payments.
  2. Revlon is constantly reshuffling its executives. Three separate individuals have held the title of CEO in the past eight years, among other frequent top-level management changes.

What do all of these executives have to show for their efforts? No organic growth, ballooning debt, exiting one of the largest cosmetics markets in the world, and over $111 million in accumulated asset write-downs. Also, look for more write-offs to come as management has reiterated that it is focusing on "fewer products" and shutting down its Chinese operations.

Weak Competitive Position

Revlon competes with other cosmetics manufacturers like Avon (NYSE:AVP), Proctor & Gamble (NYSE:PG) and Estée Lauder (NYSE:EL). Figure 2 shows how Revlon stacks up against its main competition.

Figure 2: Lagging in Terms of Profitability

Sources: New Constructs, LLC and company filings. We do not cover L'Oreal (OREP.PA)

Notice that Revlon is in only a slightly better position than Avon in terms of profitability. Avon has seen its stock price tumble 43% this year.

Revlon's profit growth, margins, and ROIC pale in comparison to those of Estée Lauder, which is generally seen as upmarket from Revlon.

Revlon is trying to regain some of the prestige it had in years past and paint itself as an alternative to Estée Lauder. However, at the moment 21% of the company's worldwide sales come from Wal-Mart and another large chunk from drugstores. If the company chooses to abandon these retail outlets in favor of image, its sales will take an enormous hit.

To make matters worse, in its current down-market iteration, Revlon will struggle to compete on price and cost with P&G, which controls mass-market brands similar to Revlon. Revlon is stuck between a rock and hard place.

Out of Touch Valuation

As a lower-end cosmetics company, Revlon is fairly recession resistant. The company's cash flow history is also solid. However, a few years of expensive acquisitions have completely erased the cash flow gains since 2008. Given this backdrop, it is hard to bet that the company will exceed the lofty expectations baked into its stock price.

To justify its current valuation of ~$35/share, Revlon would need to grow NOPAT by 10% compounded annually for the next 23 years.

While we expect Revlon and other makeup companies to be around in two decades, we think it would be highly unlikely for this company to grow profits by 10% each year over that length of time. Under this scenario, Revlon would be doing over $12 billion in sales (versus its current $1.5 billion).

If Revlon is able to grow NOPAT by 7% compounded annually for the next 22 years, the stock is worth $13/share - 61% downside from current prices.

Short Interest

Short interest stands at 283,321 shares, or 2.6% of float.

Insider Selling

In the past 6 months, insiders have bought 2,925 shares and sold 0 shares, a net change of just above 0% in insider holdings.

Funds That Allocate to REV

No ETFs or mutual funds allocate significantly to REV.

André Rouillard contributed to this report.

Disclosure: David Trainer and André Rouillard receive no compensation to write about any specific stock, sector, or theme.

Disclosure: The author has no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

The author wrote this article themselves, and it expresses their own opinions. The author is not receiving compensation for it. The author has no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.