Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wal-Mart up 2.3% after beating earnings estimates (WMT)

Shares of Wal-Mart(WMT) are up 2.3% this morning, leading the DJIA to a 70point gain. The company reported Q1 earnings that beat consensus expectations by 3cents per share. Guidance for the coming quarter was light (93-98cents per share versus 98 cents expected), but the stock is up nonetheless. Investors see a stock that is pretty inexpensive, despite tougher and tougher prospects for growth.

From the release:

Excluding fuel sales, Wal-Mart's domestic same store sales came in at the low end of expectations. Customer traffic was down, but average ticket (amount spent per customer) was up.

For the coming quarter, WMT expects the US environment to remain difficult, yet they are committed to their 2010 capital program, which calls for a ramp-up in spending after light years in 2008/2009:
"The company grew sales by 6 percent and added more than 3.6 million square feet of selling space during the first quarter," Schoewe added. "In fact, we are confirming our initial capital spending guidance of $13 billion to $15 billion this year, as we continue to invest in new stores and remodeling our existing stores and clubs."
And it is that capital spending that keeps Wal-Mart from offering a big Free Cash Flow Yield (FCFY). As they invest heavily in new stores and remodels (which they must!), that holds back Free Cash Flow.

Multiple compression can be seen below, as WMT hits new lows in terms of what investors will pay for each dollar of earnings. The company will do what it can to fight this (share buybacks, dividends), but it means these shares probably will not be offering investors out-sized total returns in the near future. On the bright side, Wal-Mart's international operations are much heavily weighted toward actual growth areas than many other DJIA components who focus heavily on Europe. India is a big wild card, as Wal-mart is only involved there in a joint-venture manner presently. Once the country opens up its laws to allow Wal-Mart to sell directly to consumers, this could be a big growth market.

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