Recently I was having one of those innocent conversations that all of us have every day of our lives when I mentioned I needed to stop by WalMart to pick up a few things. The person I was speaking to immediately said “I like shopping at WalMart but they’re too expensive.” That comment struck me as odd because I’ve been conditioned by all the commercials to understand that WalMart is “Always the Lowest”. So I thought to myself, “Does WalMart have a lock on their customer base or are other companies starting to cut into their market share?” I decided to look into the fundamentals of three companies and see what’s going on internally. I decided to look at WalMart (WMT) and see how it compares to the fundamentals of Target (TGT) and Family Dollar (FDO).
My Initial Comparison. With a price of $77.43 and earnings of $5.20, WMT has a P/E ratio of 14.89 and a PEG of 1.73. By comparison TGT has a price of $62.49, earnings of $3.74, a P/E ratio of 16.70 and a PEG of 1.55, and FDO has a price of $64.49, earnings of $3.83, a P/E ratio of 16.83 and a PEG of 1.48. Based on this initial comparison all three have a P/E ratio less than 20 (plus) and a PEG greater than one (minus). So far I consider all three of these companies as comparable from an investment point of view.
Comparison of Sales. In terms of the current quarter over quarter (Q/Q) comparison, WMT sales have increased by 1.70%, TGT sales have increased by 1.90% and FDO sales have increased by 5.80%. Annual sales growth over the past 5 years for WMT has been 4.50%, for TGT it has been 3.00%, and for FDO it has been 8.30%. Based on this information FDO far exceeds WMT and TGT for both the Q/Q and the previous 5 year sales.
Comparison of Earnings. For the previous 5 years annual earnings increases at WMT have been 9.70%, at TGT they have been 6.20%, and at FDO they have been 18.20%. For the next 5 years earnings are expected to increase annually at WMT at 8.64%, at TGT 11.2%, and at FDO 10.89%. To put this in perspective, earnings at WMT seem to be pretty steady, at TGT they seem to be increasing, and at FDO they seem to be decreasing. Here the best selection going forward is probably TGT but FDO is a pretty strong second. Historical earnings tell me a lot about the inertia of the company but I’m investing in forward earnings so I consider these more important.
Comparison of Dividends and the Payout Ratio. All three companies can be found on the list of Dividend Aristocrats so dividends have been distributed continuously for at least 25 years and dividends have increased at least once each year during this same time period. So that’s good. In fact that’s terrific. With a dividend of $1.88, WMT has a current yield of 2.42% and a payout ratio of 36.15%. TGT has a dividend of $1.58, a current yield of 2.52% and a payout ratio of 42.24%. FDO has a dividend of $1.04, a current yield of 1.61% and a payout ratio of 27.15%. Based on this information TGT is currently the most desirable since I like companies that pay at least a 2.50% current dividend yield. But I’d also be concerned that their payout ratio is relatively high. The lower payout of FDO leads me to believe that dividend increases may be more generous with an investment in FDO.
Comparison of Dividend Growth Rate. Dividends are important but if they don’t grow over time then their buying power will decay with the rate of inflation. Therefore I look for a dividend growth rate greater than inflation and these days I look fondly at growth rates greater than 3.00%. WMT has a 3 year dividend growth rate of 15.65%, a 5 year growth rate of 14.62%, and a 10 year growth rate of 11.73%. TGT has a 3 year growth rate of 23.18%, a 5 year growth rate of 21.36%, and a 10 year growth rate of 18.07%. FDO has a 3 year growth rate of 18.61%, a 5 year growth rate of 15.77%, and a 10 year growth rate of 11.82%. All three of these companies in all three time periods have excellent dividend growth rates way in excess of inflation projections with TGT having the greatest dividend growth rate. Looking forward into the future the greater growth rate combined with the greatest initial current yield for these three companies bodes well for TGT.
Conclusion. Based on sales, earnings and dividends, it appears that TGT would be the better investment going forward. The one downside to TGT is the higher payout ratio which could impact TGT’s ability to increase its dividend if profits falter in the future. The other downside is the effect the recent credit/debit card security breach may have had or will have on current and future sales and earnings. If there’s any lasting effects to TGT’s customers they may shy away from TGT stores for some time. In addition, TGT will have to offer additional discounts to get customers back into their stores and those discounts may effect current and future profits. At this point I would take a wait and see with TGT and instead I will seriously consider investing in FDO as funds become available. If the picture clears with TGT then that company may be the better investment.
Good Luck and Good Trading.
Note: I never invest in any company without reviewing the technical charts. Fundamental analysis may be able to identify the better investments but investing, like everything else in life, is all about timing. The idea of investing is buying the right companies at the right time. Below I've included the stock charts for Wal-Mart, Target and Family Dollar for your information. Hope this helps.