Is True Religion's Stock Cheap?

Numbers can lie -- but they're the best first step in determining whether a stock is a buy. In this series, we use some carefully chosen metrics to size up a stock's true value based on the following clues:

  • The current price multiples.
  • The consistency of past earnings and cash flow.
  • How much growth we can expect.

Let's see what those numbers can tell us about how expensive or cheap True Religion (Nasdaq: TRLG  ) might be.

The current price multiples
First, we'll look at most investors' favorite metric: the P/E ratio. It divides the company's share price by its earnings per share -- the lower, the better.

Then, we'll take things up a notch with a more advanced metric: enterprise value to unlevered free cash flow. This divides the company's enterprise value (basically, its market cap plus its debt, minus its cash) by its unlevered free cash flow (its free cash flow, adding back the interest payments on its debt). Like the P/E, the lower this number is, the better.

Analysts argue about which is more important -- earnings or cash flow. Who cares? A good buy ideally has low multiples on both.

True Religion has a P/E ratio of 17.4 and an EV/FCF ratio of 12.6 over the trailing 12 months. If we stretch and compare current valuations to the five-year averages for earnings and free cash flow, True Religion has a P/E ratio of 20.4 and a five-year EV/FCF ratio of 19.5.

A positive one-year ratio under 10 for both metrics is ideal. For a five-year metric, under 20 is ideal.

True Religion has a mixed performance in hitting the ideal targets, but let's see how it compares against some competitors and industry mates. 

Company

1-Year P/E

1-Year EV/FCF

5-Year P/E

5-Year EV/FCF

True Religion

17.4

12.6

20.4

19.5

Joe's Jeans (Nasdaq: JOEZ  )

25.8

NM

9.4

NM

Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE: ANF  )

34.8

25.3

25.3

25.4

Polo Ralph Lauren (NYSE: RL  )

22.7

27.3

28.3

21.0

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's; NM = not meaningful.

Numerically, we've seen how True Religion's valuation rates on both an absolute and relative basis. Next, let's examine ...

The consistency of past earnings and cash flow
An ideal company will be consistently strong in its earnings and cash flow generation.

In the past five years, True Religion's net income margin has ranged from 11.6% to 16.1%. In that same time frame, unlevered free cash flow margin has ranged from 6.4% to 19.4%.

How do those figures compare with those of the company's peers? See for yourself:

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's; margin ranges are combined.

Additionally, over the last five years, True Religion has tallied up five years of positive earnings and five years of positive free cash flow.

Next, let's figure out ...

How much growth we can expect
Analysts tend to comically overstate their five-year growth estimates. If you accept them at face value, you will overpay for stocks. But while you should definitely take the analysts' prognostications with a grain of salt, they can still provide a useful starting point when compared to similar numbers from a company's closest rivals.

Let's start by seeing what this company's done over the past five years. In that time period, True Religion has put up past EPS growth rates of 14.7%. Meanwhile, Wall Street's analysts expect future growth rates of 20%.

Here's how True Religion compares to its peers for trailing five-year growth (due to losses, Joe's Jeans' trailing growth rate isn't meaningful):

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's; EPS growth shown.

And here's how it measures up with regard to the growth analysts expect over the next five years:

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's; estimates for EPS growth.

The bottom line
The pile of numbers we've plowed through has shown us the price multiples shares of True Religion are trading at, the volatility of its operational performance, and what kind of growth profile it has -- both on an absolute and a relative basis.

The more consistent a company's performance has been and the more growth we can expect, the more we should be willing to pay. We've gone well beyond looking at a 17.4 P/E ratio, and we see some pretty solid numbers all around. Retailing is a tough industry, but if True Religion can keep up the growth, it may well be cheap at these prices. If you find True Religion's numbers or story compelling, don't stop. Continue your due diligence process until you're confident one way or the other. As a start, add it to My Watchlist to find all of our Foolish analysis.

To see the stocks that I've researched beyond the initial numbers and bought in my public real-money portfolio, click here.

Anand Chokkavelu doesn't own shares in any company mentioned. 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.


Read/Post Comments (1) | Recommend This Article (1)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On July 12, 2011, at 3:22 PM, herbertslojewski wrote:

    I love this article, which is supposed about True Religion Jeans, but is instead engineered to demonstrate Joes Jeans huge future, which they estimate at a 50% growth rate. That will be nice to

    see. I've held the shares two years now and seen them go from a third floor suite down to the basement. Looks like we're just about coming back to the first floor; maybe in another year we'll be on the second. I'm holding on to see if the new stores and the Far East investments pay off. Could be a fun ride. Comments? How many shares are you carrying? More than 80K? If you have any interesting stories write me at h.slojewski@gmail.com. Cheers. Herb

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