With today’s note, we make changes to ratings on two stocks (Macy’s and GE Healthcare Technologies), discuss the earnings report from Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) and provide updates on several recommended stocks.
Next week, Wells Fargo (WFC) reports earnings, with the deluge starting the week of January 23.
Shares of Macy’s (M) have ticked above our recently raised $20 price target. We continue to like the shares, as the company is executing well, and its customer base seems to be doing fine as the labor market remains strong, and the shares remain undervalued. So, we are raising our price target to $25.
General Electric (GE) spun off its GE Healthcare Technologies (GEHC) business on Tuesday, January 4. GE shareholders received 1 GEHC share for every 3 GE shares owned. General Electric continues to own 19.9% of GE Healthcare but will gradually divest this stake. We are moving the shares from Unrated to Sell.
The new company is primarily a healthcare equipment maker, focusing on imaging (MRI, CT, others) and ultrasound gear. It also sells patient care solutions (data analysis) and pharma diagnostics products (imaging consumables). Revenue growth is likely to be modest, at perhaps 3-5%, as the industry is mature and served by several large competitors while the number of buyers is limited yet they have increasing negotiating power. About half of the company’s sales are recurring. We would consider the leadership to be good.
Like most spin-offs, the new company is emphasizing its expectations for healthy sales growth and expanding margins (EBITDA margin is targeted to increase from about 15% to a goal of perhaps 18%), buttressed by its market leadership, new product innovations and efficiency programs.
Our view is that GE Healthcare may well be a decent company, but its growth rate potential is limited, and its profit margin expansion will be grinding due to competition and likely higher research, development and other costs. And, the company has probably already cut considerable expenses under GE CEO Larry Culp. We think it will struggle to even come close to its 18% margin goal. GE Healthcare has an over-levered balance sheet at 3.5x EBITDA that will likely constrain its financial flexibility. We see 2023 as a transition year that will probably be uninspiring.
The share valuation is reasonable at best, at 12x EBITDA and 17x per share earnings based on 2023 estimates. The free cash flow yield of 5% is not attractive.
We see little chance of a meaningful post-spin-off bounce in the shares, given the long lead-time that investors have had to prepare for the transaction. The shares joined the S&P 500, but index demand is likely already priced in. At about 8 basis points of index weight, GEHC shares aren’t big enough to drive demand by closet indexers, either. Over a 2–3-year period, we see the shares having perhaps 15-25% upside potential, which is respectable but not in the 50% range that we look for in turnaround situations.
All-in, the shares aren’t attractive enough to include on our recommended list, so we are moving them to SELL.
With the spin-off, we are now reviewing our rating on shares of stub General Electric (GE).
Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) – Once a retail pharmacy powerhouse, Walgreens faces hefty secular challenges from an overbuilt and mature store base, with customers who have plenty of alternatives to visiting its often poorly-run and expensively priced stores. And, pricing pressure from private and government payors is squeezing its prescription profit margin. Walgreens is concentrating on the United States market where it is developing its stores into a healthcare network, led by the much-needed fresh perspective from the new CEO. The company’s shares are bargain-priced even as Walgreens is in solid financial condition and produces large and stable profits and cash flow.
Walgreens reported mixed fiscal first quarter 2023 results. Revenue and activity metrics moved in the right direction, but profits fell. The company maintained its fiscal 2023 earnings guidance. Walgreen’s core business may produce reasonable profit growth in 2023 but the new guidance for break-even profits in the new Healthcare segment a year earlier than originally guided seems driven more by the acquisition of Summit Health than better underlying profitability. We are left with more questions and concerns than answers as the Healthcare build-out continues. The shares are impressively inexpensive, but we wonder if the upcoming fundamental slog will produce our anticipated endgame.
Revenues fell 2% but rose 1% on a currency-adjusted basis. When further scrubbed of the effects of acquisitions and the shrinking AllianceRx Walgreens business, sales rose 3%. Revenues were about 1% above estimates. The company incrementally raised its full-year fiscal 2023 revenue guidance to a fractional increase over 2022. Growth of 8-10% in its core businesses was guided to be offset by currency headwinds and weak Covid vaccine traffic compared to a year ago.
Adjusted earnings of $1.16/share fell 31% from a year ago but were about 2% above estimates. The company reiterated its full-year fiscal 2023 earnings guidance ($4.45 midpoint) that points to an 11% decline from 2022. Driving the decline is the lack of outsized profits earned last year from elevated Covid vaccine traffic as well as the continued drag from the strong dollar which should more than offset stronger core business trends.
The company recorded a huge $6.5 billion charge for opioid litigation and settlements. We would like to think that this ends the overhang, but there could be more charges down the road.
Constant currency sales in its traditional U.S. and U.K. operations as well as the German wholesale business are respectable at around 4-5%. Some investors apparently viewed these results as being below expectations. Gross margins and operating margins slipped due to higher Covid vaccine profits a year ago, yet also due to higher costs and reimbursement rate pressures. Many of these issues are chronic, although Walgreens is working to trim its overhead and other costs, even as it spends more on efficiency improvements. The floundering AllianceRx Walgreens business appears to be operating at breakeven, so its sliding revenues don’t meaningfully hurt profits.
Sales in the U.S. Healthcare segment, which is the segment that the company wants to be the driver of future profit growth, rose 38% on a pro forma basis. Like some others, we are wondering if 38% is adequate growth given the huge investments. EBITDA profit was a loss of $(124) million as these segments ramp their build-out. Walgreens accelerated its timeline for positive EBITDA in its U.S. Healthcare segment, saying it should now happen by the end of 2023 rather than by the end of 2024. But the recent acquisition of the remaining stake in Summit Health brings onto the books a highly profitable business, so it is unclear how much of the underlying profits of U.S. Healthcare are actually improving. The deal essentially “buys” profits, but the key challenge for Walgreens is to convert today’s “bought” profits into a steady stream of rising profits in years to come. The jury is still out on this question.
The balance sheet remains reasonably leveraged but free cash flow isn’t covering the dividend due to weaker profits and elevated capital spending. Walgreen’s opioid settlements will drain over $400 million a year from its cash flow every year for at least a decade – weighing on its balance sheet and free cash flow.
The company is selling down its non-core assets – these transactions generated about $3.2 billion in proceeds in the quarter – to fund its healthcare services build-out. Walgreens said it will pause new acquisitions, which should help clarify for investors the underlying profits of the Healthcare segment as well as preserve cash for Walgreens and allow it to integrate its already-completed acquisitions. However, we view this “pause” as a temporary feature that will be terminated when the next must-have target hits Walgreens’ sights.
The new CEO continues to add senior leadership talent to help execute the core and build-out strategies. We see this as both encouraging but also a tad worrisome as new talent takes several quarters, or longer, to be fully effective, and not all new leadership works out.
Friday, January 6, 2023, Subscribers-Only Podcast:
Covering recent news and analysis for our portfolio companies and other topics relevant to value/contrarian investors.
Today’s podcast is about 15 minutes and covers:
- Ratings changes
- Macy’s (M) – raise price target to $25.
- GE Healthcare Technologies (GEHC) – moving rating from Unrated to Sell.
- Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA)
- Comments on our recommended companies:
- Xerox (XRX) – Back-to-office improvements, and new financing deal.
- Nokia (NOK) – Verizon says it is substantially done with 5G build-out. Nokia signs co-licensing deal with Huawei.
- Meta Platforms (META) – settles one lawsuit but hit with fines in Europe.
- Western Digital (WDC) – re-opening acquisition talks with Kioxia?
- Elsewhere in the market
- Bankruptcy judge says crypto deposits don’t belong to customers.
- Crypto-bank Silvergate Capital near collapse?
|Market Cap||Recommendation||Symbol||Rec. Issue||Price at Rec.||1/5/23||Current Yield||Rating and Price Target|
|Small cap||Gannett Company||GCI||Aug 2017||9.22||2.30||-||Buy (9)|
|Small cap||Duluth Holdings||DLTH||Feb 2020||8.68||6.13||-||Buy (20)|
|Small cap||Dril-Quip||DRQ||May 2021||28.28||26.46||-||Buy (44)|
|Small cap||ZimVie||ZIMV||Apr 2022||23.00||9.19||-||Buy (32)|
|Mid cap||Mattel||MAT||May 2015||28.43||19.28||-||Buy (38)|
|Mid cap||Conduent||CNDT||Feb 2017||14.96||4.21||-||Buy (9)|
|Mid cap||Adient plc||ADNT||Oct 2018||39.77||37.38||-||Buy (55)|
|Mid cap||Xerox Holdings||XRX||Dec 2020||21.91||15.74||6.4%||Buy (33)|
|Mid cap||Ironwood Pharmaceuticals||IRWD||Jan 2021||12.02||12.41||-||Buy (19)|
|Mid cap||Viatris||VTRS||Feb 2021||17.43||11.84||4.1%||Buy (26)|
|Mid cap||Organon & Co.||OGN||Jul 2021||30.19||28.84||3.9%||Buy (46)|
|Mid cap||TreeHouse Foods||THS||Oct 2021||39.43||49.80||-||Buy (60)|
|Mid cap||Kaman Corporation||KAMN||Nov 2021||37.41||22.05||3.6%||Buy (57)|
|Mid cap||The Western Union Co.||WU||Dec 2021||16.40||13.88||6.8%||Buy (25)|
|Mid cap||Brookfield Re||BNRE||Jan 2022||61.32||32.13||1.7%||Buy (93)|
|Mid cap||Brookfield Asset Mgt||BAM||Spin-off||na||29.52||-||Unrated|
|Mid cap||Polaris||PII||Feb 2022||105.78||101.71||-||Buy (160)|
|Mid cap||Goodyear Tire & Rubber||GT||Mar 2022||16.01||10.67||-||Buy (24.50)|
|Mid cap||M/I Homes||MHO||May 2022||44.28||49.93||-||Buy (67)|
|Mid cap||Janus Henderson Group||JHG||Jun 2022||27.17||24.47||6.4%||Buy (67)|
|Mid cap||ESAB Corp||ESAB||Jul 2022||45.64||50.01||-||Buy (68)|
|Mid cap||Six Flags Entertainment||SIX||Dec 2022||22.60||25.79||-||Buy (35)|
|Large cap||General Electric||GE||Jul 2007||304.96||71.29||0.4%||Buy (160)|
|Large cap||Nokia Corporation||NOK||Mar 2015||8.02||4.69||1.9%||Buy (12)|
|Large cap||Macy’s||M||Jul 2016||33.61||21.56||2.9%||Buy (25)|
|Large cap||Toshiba Corporation||TOSYY||Nov 2017||14.49||17.01||6.1%||Buy (28)|
|Large cap||Holcim Ltd.||HCMLY||Apr 2018||10.92||10.59||4.2%||Buy (16)|
|Large cap||Newell Brands||NWL||Jun 2018||24.78||14.11||6.5%||Buy (39)|
|Large cap||Vodafone Group plc||VOD||Dec 2018||21.24||10.58||9.6%||Buy (32)|
|Large cap||Molson Coors||TAP||Jul 2019||54.96||49.58||3.1%||Buy (69)|
|Large cap||Berkshire Hathaway||BRK.B||Apr 2020||183.18||312.90||-||HOLD|
|Large cap||Wells Fargo & Company||WFC||Jun 2020||27.22||42.42||2.8%||Buy (64)|
|Large cap||Western Digital Corporation||WDC||Oct 2020||38.47||35.23||-||Buy (78)|
|Large cap||Elanco Animal Health||ELAN||Apr 2021||27.85||12.45||-||Buy (44)|
|Large cap||Walgreens Boots Alliance||WBA||Aug 2021||46.53||35.19||5.4%||Buy (70)|
|Large cap||Volkswagen AG||VWAGY||Aug 2022||19.76||16.73||4.5%||Buy (70)|
|Large cap||Warner Bros Discovery||WBD||Sep 2022||13.13||10.86||-||Buy (20)|
|Large cap||Dow||DOW||Oct 2022||43.90||52.91||5.3%||Buy (60)|
|Large cap||Capital One Financial||COF||Nov 2022||96.25||93.98||2.6%||Buy (150)|
|Large cap||Meta Platforms||META||Jan 2023||118.04||126.94||-||Buy (180)|
|Large cap||GE Healthcare Technologies||GEHC||Spin-off||na||59.00||-||SELL|
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