Hewlett-Packard Trades At The Lower End Of Its Fair Value Range

| About: HP Inc. (HPQ)
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As part of our process, we perform a rigorous discounted cash-flow methodology that dives into the true intrinsic worth of companies. In Hewlett-Packard's (NYSE:HPQ) case, we think the firm is fairly valued at $35 per share. Though this is much higher than where it is currently trading, we're still a bit cautious on the firm.

For some background, 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 (click here for an in-depth narrated presentation on our methodology), which ranks stocks on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best.

If a company is undervalued both on a DCF and on a relative valuation basis and is showing improvement in technical and momentum indicators, it scores high on our scale. Hewlett-Packard posts a VBI score of 4 on our scale, reflecting our 'fairly valued' DCF assessment of the company, its attractive relative valuation versus peers, and very bearish techinicals.

Our Report on Hewlett-Packard


Investment Considerations

Investment Highlights

Hewlett-Packard earns a ValueCreation™ rating of EXCELLENT, the highest possible mark on our scale. The firm has been generating economic value for shareholders for the past few years, a track record we view very positively. Return on invested capital (excluding goodwill) has averaged 55.6% during the past three years.

The firm is trading at attractive valuation mulitples relative to peers, but our DCF process indicates a less compelling opportunity. We'd wait for a clearer signal on valuation before jumping into the firm's shares.

Hewlett-Packard has a good combination of strong free cash flow generation and manageable financial leverage. We expect the firm's free cash flow margin to average about 6.3% in coming years. Total debt-to-EBITDA was 1.9 last year, while debt-to-book capitalization stood at 44.2%.

The firm's share price performance has trailed that of the market during the past quarter. However, it is trading within our fair value estimate range, so we don't view such activity as alarming.

The firm's technicals look very weak. If current prices hold, the firm's moving averages could create a death cross, a very bearish technical pattern.

Most Recent Quarterly Results

Hewlett-Packard reported disappointing fiscal first-quarter 2012 results as the company continues to struggle to right the ship. Though the turnaround is still many a quarter away, we are sticking with our fair value estimate for the world's No. 3 personal computer maker at this time.

Hewlett-Packard's fiscal first-quarter revenue fell 7% (8% after adjusting for currency) from the same period a year ago, while the company's GAAP diluted earnings per share dropped nearly 40%, to $0.73. Though this came in better than the firm's previously-provided bottom-line outlook of $0.61 to $0.64 per share, we think expectations had been lowered to the point where an earnings beat had been completely expected. On a non-GAAP basis, earnings per share came in at $0.92 per share, down 32% from the prior-year period. The company suffered nearly a 4 percentage-point decline in its operating margin in the quarter, which exacerbated the revenue fall, pushing earnings considerably lower.

In the Americas, adjusted revenue fell 8%, while adjusted sales in Europe, the Middle East and Africa dropped 5%. Revenue in its Asia Pacific region declined 12% after adjusting for currency. Performance in the firm's Personal Systems Group was particularly poor, as revenue dropped 15% on a year-over-year basis on the heels of 18% fewer units. The firm's higher-margin Imaging and Printing Group and Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking segment also experienced declines in sales during the period to the tune of 7% and 10%, respectively. Demand for its software, however, continues to expand, largely bolstered by acquisitive activity.

Looking ahead, Hewlett-Packard estimates that non-GAAP earnings per share will come in between $0.88 to $0.91 per share. The firm reiterated its full-year outlook of at least $4 per share in non-GAAP earnings, a level we think will be beat handily by the company.

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. Hewlett-Packard's 3-year historical return on invested capital (without goodwill) is 55.6%, which is above the estimate of its cost of capital of 10.2%. As such, we assign the firm a ValueCreation™ rating of EXCELLENT. 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. Hewlett-Packard's free cash flow margin has averaged about 7% during the past 3 years. As such, we think the firm's cash flow generation is relatively STRONG. 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. For more information on the differences between these two measures, please visit our website at Valuentum.com. At Hewlett-Packard, cash flow from operations decreased about 6% from levels registered two years ago, while capital expenditures expanded about 23% over the same time period.

Valuation Analysis

Our discounted cash flow model indicates that Hewlett-Packard's shares are worth between $23.00 - $47.00 each. The margin of safety around our fair value estimate is driven by the firm's HIGH ValueRisk™ rating, which is derived from the historical volatility of key valuation drivers. The estimated fair value of $35 per share represents a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of about 10.5 times last year's earnings and an implied EV/EBITDA multiple of about 6 times last year's EBITDA. Our model reflects a compound annual revenue growth rate of 0.4% during the next five years, a pace that is lower than the firm's 3-year historical compound annual growth rate of 2.4%. Our model reflects a 5-year projected average operating margin of 9.4%, which is below Hewlett-Packard's trailing 3-year average. Beyond year 5, we assume free cash flow will grow at an annual rate of 1.2% for the next 15 years and 3% in perpetuity. For Hewlett-Packard, we use a 10.2% 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 $35 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 Hewlett-Packard. We think the firm is attractive below $23 per share (the green line), but quite expensive above $47 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 Hewlett-Packard's fair value at this point in time to be about $35 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 Hewlett-Packard'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 $48 per share in Year 3 represents our existing fair value per share of $35 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

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.