Rising Star Buy: Fast Retailing

This article is part of our Rising Star Portfolios series. Ilan is co-manager of the Dada Portfolio.

During my recent trip to Korea, I learned a number of things, not the least of which is that Korean BBQ is delicious, whereas ammonia-laced rotted stingray is much less so.

Since returning, I've been pondering a number of investment ideas of companies I encountered there. One standout is Japan-based Fast Retailing (OTC: FRCOY.PK), the apparel company behind a number of clothing brands, including Uniqlo.

Fast Retailing's story is fairly straightforward. Its massive, four-story Uniqlo stores were busy and, in my opinion, carried awesome clothes. (Full disclosure: I'm wearing a red Uniqlo sweatshirt in the second testimonial of our April Fools' joke this year.) Average annual growth has been impressive -- 14% for both sales and net income over the past three years despite the economic downturn. A return on equity of 17% despite carrying almost no debt demonstrates the efficiency of Fast Retailing's stores.

For comparison, here are those figures for a few of its closest peers and competitors.

Company

3-Year Sales Growth

Return on Equity

Fast Retailing

14%

17%

H&M

10%

39%

The Gap (NYSE: GPS  )

(2%)

27%

American Apparel

11%

(74%)

Data from Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

In addition to a goal of opening 300 stores each year in Asia, the company plans to open 200 Uniqlo stores in the United States by 2020. Currently it operates only one flagship Uniqlo store, located in New York (which seems somewhat appropriate, given the tendency for their pants to run skinny). The overall goal, according to Bloomberg, is for Fast Retailing to increase sales sixfold over the next decade.

At 23 times earnings, Fast Retailing's stock doesn't come particularly cheap, but it's a fair price to pay.

Fast Retailing joins Limited Brands (NYSE: LTD  ) , Wet Seal (Nasdaq: WTSLA  ) , and lululemon athletica (Nasdaq: LULU  ) in the Dada Portfolio's stable of apparel retailers. (You can read about why we bought those stocks here and here.) We'll purchase a $500 stake, or 3% of our total capital.

You can follow all the moves at the Dada Portfolio on Twitter @TMFDada, or let us know what you think of Fast Retailing by visiting our discussion board.

Ilan Moscovitz doesn't own shares of any company mentioned. Fast Retailing is a Motley Fool Global Gains pick. lululemon athletica is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. The Fool owns shares of Limited Brands, Wet Seal, and lululemon athletica. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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