Hormel Is A Post-Pandemic Winner And Highly Valued
There are many reasons why Hormel Foods (NYSE:HRL) stock has done so well during the pandemic. To start, the company is a blue-chip consumer staple with a long history of steady, even returns. In times of trouble, those kinds of stocks are among the first the market turns to. Adding fuel to the fire is the dividend. Among the stocks most-loved in times of trouble are the higher-yielding dividend growers and Hormel Foods is one of those.
In addition, the pandemic itself heightened Hormel’s appeal by accelerating business. The pandemic caused a major shift in how Americans eat and Hormel was well-positioned for those trends. Now, with a double-tailwind emerging in economic recovery, the stock is poised to see its growth accelerate. But does that make it a buy? Trading at over 31X this year’s and next 30X next year’s earnings it is no bargain compared to its peers.
"We expect the fourth quarter to mirror many of the dynamics we saw in the third quarter, including strength from our retail businesses and the ongoing recovery in our foodservice business," said CEO Jim Snee. "However, the magnitude of additional recovery in the foodservice industry, the performance of the entire food supply chain and the state of the broader economy remain highly uncertain."
Nothing Surprising In Hormel’s Report
Hormel’s FQ3 earnings report is good but there is nothing the analysts didn’t expect. Revenue grew 3.9% to $2.38 billion on a 4% increase in volume driven by a 3% increase of organic sales. Weakness in the wholesale/foodservice segment were more than offset by strength in the retail/food-at-home segment. Regarding the wholesale segment, sales to foodservice businesses are rebounding and expected to gain strength in the current quarter.
On the bottom line, GAAP EPS of $0.37 beat consensus by $0.02 do to a slight beat in margins. Margins shrank by 70 basis points to 10.5% but came in above the 10.1% expected. The only negative in the bottom line figures is that earnings growth is flat on a YOY basis.
On a reported segment basis, sales of grocery items increased by 7% to lead the business. Grocery accounts for about a quarter of all revenue on a quarter to quarter basis. Sales of refrigerated products, the largest segment at 57% of sales, increased by 5.0%. The only weakness is in the Jennie-O-Turkey Store with net sales declining -4.0% but it is one of the smaller segments of the business and only 12% of total sales.
Hormel’s Dividend Is Safe And Still Growing
Hormel’s attraction as a dividend payer has not lessened but its yield could be higher. With the stock trading at all-time high levels, the yield is only 1.75% compared to the 2.0% to 2.25% it used to pay, and the 2.5% to 4% you can get with some of its peers. That said, Hormel is a dividend-grower with 20 years of increases to its credit and a high-expectation for an aggressive increase later this year. The payout ratio is running about 55% earnings and free-cash-flow is unhindered by debt.
Over the last quarter total cash flow improved by 59% due to a combination of factors that are likely to persist over the next year. Demand for the company’s product has inventory down freeing up cash and increasing accounts payable. Couple this with the 16% 5-year CAGR for the dividend and it adds up another big increase during the calendar 2021 reporting cycle.
The Technical Outlook: Hormel Is A Buy, But Not At These Levels
I don’t see anything wrong with Hormel fundamentally but at these levels, I would want to wait for prices to pull back before buying. Trading at 31X, now 30X earnings Hormel is as highly valued as Clorox and Clorox is the hands-down #1 winner from the pandemic.
Tuesday’s price action has the stock showing a top and I think the selling might only be getting started. A move lower on profit-taking could take this stock down to the short-term EMA at $51.20 if not a little lower. Once the price comes down a bit and supports start to show itself I would be a buyer again. Until then I’d focus more on consumer staples with lower valuations and higher yields
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