What do you think of the QAN, JBH and ITX results Roger?
Here we are in the midst of reporting season and there are some reasonably predictable results. Qantas reported a profit today that was less than a quarter of its profit more than ten years ago. The airline reported a $112 million profit but that was boosted by $1 billion of revenue from its Frequent Flyer program and a $300 reduction in employment costs. For those of you interested in the real numbers, the company actually lost $302 million (see my chapter in Value.able on cash flow) and this can be explained by the very wide gap between the depreciation item in the profit and loss statement and the real expenditure on property plant & equipment. Depreciation looks backwards, but new planes cost more.
Separately, JB Hi-Fi’s result was excellent but my concern is that its $94 million of cash flow (of which $67 million was allocated to dividends and $20 million allocated to paying down debt) is superfluous to its needs. Take a look at the biggest asset on the balance sheet – Inventory of $334 million. Then take a look at the creditors item in the current liabilities section. Almost the same amount!
Think about it this way; the suppliers are funding the inventory so the company doesn’t even need cash to pay have the stuff it sells and that are on its shelves. Actually it really does, the gap is about what is left over once we subtract the debt repayment and dividends from the cash flow. It is small though. Once the debt is gone and the cash keeps growing it may do something that could harm intrinsic value.
Now don’t get me wrong; JB Hi-Fi is an amazing business that retained its A1 status in this result and the risk associated with its plans to roll out more stores is very low. I also think intrinsic value will continue to rise at a satisfactory rate. The concern for me with all this cash (and there is no evidence of it yet) is that the company increases the dividend payout ratio again. This would mean a reduction in the rate of growth of intrinsic value. It could stop being the “compounding machine” it has been to date. Return on equity also appears to be flattening, which could mean within the next few years, the valuation may plateau (but at a higher level than the current price).
On an unrelated issue, I note that back on 4 May 2010, I put together a list of the companies that I though represented the last of value in a blog post entitled Do these three companies represent the last of good value? ITX was one of the companies listed and I note the company has announced “itX confirms that it is in discussions with an interested party regarding a preliminary non-binding indication of interest to acquire 100% of the ordinary shares in itX.”
I’m pleased to strike another one up for the quality rating and valuation approach advocated here at my Insights blog!
Posted by Roger Montgomery, 12 August 2010