Sysco (NYSE: SYY) is one of those great companies that is all around you that you have probably never heard of. That is, unless you have ever worked in a restaurant or food service; then you know all about Sysco.
Sysco, which is not to be confused with tech infrastructure giant Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO), another great company, supplies food to almost every restaurant and cafeteria in America. Even if you are not familiar with Sysco, you probably see its trucks on the road every day. If you look around you, they are literally everywhere.
This makes Sysco a great deal like Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.B) subsidiary McLane, which supplies the cigarettes, gum and candy to the nation's convenience stores. Like McLane, Sysco is in the supply and logistics business. Buffett bought McLane because it is a reliable business.
People will buy gum, candy and snacks from someplace. If they stop going to 7-Eleven, McLane will simply supply whatever company replaces it, just as Sysco will supply whatever restaurants Americans eat at. If people stop eating at Burger King, it'll just start supplying Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG) or Five Guys or whatever place they go to.
Sysco's market is also growing at an incredible rate. The amount of food Americans buy from restaurants was actually greater than the amount purchased from supermarkets, Bloomberg Business reported in August. To make the future even brighter for Sysco, younger people were even more likely to eat out.
Sysco Now at Your Supermarket
For example, Sysco is now supplying Kroger (NYSE: KR), America's largest supermarket chain, with foodservice items such as salads and sandwiches, Supermarket News reported. That is a very smart move because the lines between supermarkets and restaurants are increasingly blurring. Office workers, truck drivers and police officers are regularly taking lunch at supermarkets, and dinner for many families is the entre that Mom picks up on the way home from the office.
Supermarket foodservice is now a $27 billion a year business in the U.S. that is growing at a rate of 4.2%, a Deutsche Bank survey cited by Supermarket News indicates. Kroger is greatly expanding its foodservice offerings. Among other things, it is adding food courts to its Ralph's locations and sushi bars to its King Soopers markets in Colorado.
Selling to Kroger is a very smart move for Sysco because it operates around 3,727 stores in 37 states. Those locations include around 3,000 supermarkets and 782 convenience stores. One has to wonder if Sysco will start other supermarket giants such as Safeway-Albertsons next or even other retail giants such as Walmart, Target and Costco.
One reason for this will be the growing popularity of eating out. Supermarkets are increasingly head to head with restaurants.
Does Sysco Make Money?
It looks like Sysco is in the right business at the right time, but value investors will raise an obvious question: Does Sysco make money? The answer to that inquiry provided by our friends at YCharts appears to be yes.
Sysco offered some appetizing numbers on June 30, 2015, including:
· A TTM revenue of $48.68 billion.
· A net income of $686.77 million.
· A diluted earnings per share figure of .94%.
· A profit margin of .59%.
· A free cash flow of $589.44 million.
· Cash and short-term investments of $5.130 billion.
· $1.55 billion in cash from operations.
· Assets of $17.99 billion.
· Estimated sales for the third quarter of 2015 of $12.58 billion.
· Estimated sales for the current fiscal year of $50.98 billion.
Investors also shared in Sysco's profits. It provided shareholders with a dividend yield of 2.98%, a payout ratio of 101.2% and a return on equity of 12.96%. Sysco is also undervalued; on October 6, 2015, its shares were trading at $40.20 apiece, and it had market capitalization of $23.92 billion and an enterprise value of $26.15 billion.
Sysco's business is also growing at an impressive rate. Its revenue grew from $44.41 billion in June 2013 to $48.68 billion in June 2015. That is an increase of $4.27 billion in two years, which is great for a humble food service provider.
A Classic Buffett Value Play
If you are looking for a classic Warren Buffett-style value play, Sysco is certainly worth a look. It has many of the attributes Uncle Warren loves: It is not sexy, but it has a steady, widespread business that generates a lot of cash, and that business is growing.
More importantly, Sysco is underpriced. If you are looking for a value investment or a good widows and orphans stock to add to your portfolio, Sysco is certainly a good candidate.
Disclosure: I am/we are long KR.