Every portfolio needs to have at least one mature company that generates a lot of cash flow and returns capital to shareholders in a generous manner. It's even better if that company is constantly finding ways to cut costs while also increasing its competitive advantages. One such company is Sysco (NYSE:SYY). As you might already know, Sysco recently purchased US Foods for $3.5 billion. The deal has been approved by both boards, and it's expected to close in the third quarter of 2014 as long as it passes regulatory approval. Now let's take a look at what this deal means for Sysco, and how it should increase the company's competitive advantages.
Prior to the Sysco/US Foods deal announcement, Sysco had been searching for ways to cut costs and improve margins, primarily through automation and centralization. These moves were necessary given Sysco's consistent decline in profit margin:
With this deal in place, it's likely that Sysco's margin will improve. For instance, the deal will allow Sysco to reduce its head count, since available employees will have overlapping skill-sets. Customers and suppliers will also be integrated. Also, divestitures of distribution facilities are highly likely.
At the moment, Sysco operates 190 distribution facilities and US Foods operates 80 distribution facilities. By combining these distribution facilities and only keeping the ones that make the most sense from a geographical standpoint, Sysco can reduce costs significantly. Sysco has stated that it will take several months for it to decide what to divest. Therefore, don't expect any news about this right away.
While all integration decisions haven't been made yet, Sysco expects estimated annual synergies of $600 million after three to four years. The company cites supply chain improvements, merchandising optimization, and overlapping general and administrative functions as catalysts.
Investing in Sysco is all about patience. For example, if you look at total shareholder return (stock appreciation plus dividend payments) over the past five years, you will see a methodical yet reliable ascent:
Sysco currently yields 3.20%, and given that it generated $1.47 billion in operating cash flow over the past year, that healthy dividend yield shouldn't be going anywhere.
When people hear (or read) the name Sysco, they don't often think about top-line growth. However, take a look at the company's top-line performance over the past five years:
We're not talking about Amazon here, but any top-line growth in the current economic environment is a positive. Sysco generated $44.1 billion in revenue in 2012. US Foods generated $22 billion in revenue in 2012. Combining these two companies could form a monster that would have pricing power with vendors. The new combined company also has the potential to fight off rising distribution threats from Costco and Wal-Mart thanks to increased scale. On top of that, Sysco and US Foods should complement each other well, as Sysco is more of an institutional business and US Foods is known as more of a street business.
If this deal gains regulatory approval, then you're likely to see top-line growth, increased scale that should lead to competitive advantages, aggressive cost cutting that should reduce costs and improve margins, and possibly even increased capital returns to shareholders. I think Sysco would be a good long-term addition to any diversified portfolio. Even if the stock underperforms, generous dividend payments have the potential to make up for it. All that said, please do your own due diligence prior to investing.
Dan Moskowitz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, Costco Wholesale, and Sysco. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com and Costco Wholesale. 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.