Since I'm an investor drawn to growth companies, Tractor Supply
When the company reported Q4 and full-year 2005 results on Wednesday, the store count weighed in at 595, which included 65 new store openings for the year, meeting the higher end of expectations. In 2006, another 78-80 stores are expected to open, bringing the total at the end of 2006 to just over half of the long-term goal of 1300 stores. That grand total does not include the growth of a second retail concept in Del's Farm Supply -- a chain of 16 stores in the Pacific Northwest that was acquired in November of last year.
While Del's stores are focused more on the equine, animal, and pet category -- products that Tractor Supply stores already sell -- management believes the smaller format will allow penetration into more geographic markets. The company expects to open two new locations over the upcoming fiscal year, and cited confidence in the possibility of these stores being able to penetrate previously untapped markets.
It bears noting, of course, that increasing store numbers means very little without a corresponding increase to shareholder value. That said, diluted EPS for the year was $2.09, an increase of 33%, and guidance for next year is for $2.32-$2.39, including $0.11 per diluted share in stock-based compensation costs.
While new concepts will always be needed to reap the benefits of high growth rates, there is always the fear of a season or two of bad harvests. With $21.2 million in cash and $8.2 million in debt -- which has consistently been whittled down the past few years -- the balance sheet is pretty solid. That means the company should be able to weather a season or two of stormy results.
Given today's jump, the stock is trading at a forward P/E around 26, against analyst growth estimates of 20% for the next five years. While profits seem to be nosing up nicely, free cash flow for the year was barely above zero. That's due largely to the aggressive pace at which the company had been opening, which will bear long-term benefits, but has pushed cash flow lower in the short term.
That said, based on the company's current relative valuation multiples, I still find the shares to be a bit pricey. Given the degree of seasonality to profits (Q1 is expected to be a break-even quarter), it's my opinion that the stock might encounter some weakness moving forward, as uncertainty usually doesn't sit so well with investors. In this case, it might offer a decent entry point. So although I find the company's long-term prospects to be fairly enticing, I'd prefer to wait on a drop rather than jump on the bandwagon now.