As much as I'd love to analyze the earnings results and conference calls from different quarters of 2014, Hertz Global Holdings (NYSE:HTZ) still hasn't reported any. Normally, that in and of itself would be a red flag of epic proportions, but here are three basic reasons the stock price could still step on the gas and drive uphill anyway.
Reason 1: Uncertainty is worse than bad news
Hertz's is currently undergoing accounting work to restate certain errors and audit reviews dating back to 2011. While it's highly doubtful that whatever changes come out of it has any effect on cash flow, the market has always hated uncertainty, especially when the consequence is a delay in more current 2014 results. Investors are investing in Hertz with somewhat of a partial blindfold on.
Hertz hasn't given a hard date of when it can expect to be caught up on its financials, so either the financials themselves or at least guidance for same could theoretically come literally any day. With financials come certainty, and with certainty the potential pool of investors widens.
As an example of uncertainty getting priced in, competitor Avis Budget Group (NASDAQ:CAR) trades with a P/E of around 14 based on analyst estimates for fiscal 2015. Meanwhile, Hertz trades with a cheaper P/E of 12 based on estimates for the same timeframe, despite having higher growth expectations based on both revenue and sales. A return to certainty may result in a higher trading multiple, assuming analysts remain confident in their figures.
Reason 2: Icon Carl Icahn
Whenever billionaire hedge-fund manager and activist Carl Icahn seemingly falls from the sky and gets directly involved in a big name like Hertz, it's rarely a bad sign. He doesn't use the term "activist" lightly. In a filing on Aug. 20, Icahn and his Icahn Enterprises (NASDAQ:IEP) revealed that it acquired an 8.48% stake in Hertz. The filing stated, in part:
The Reporting Persons acquired their positions in the Shares in the belief that they were undervalued. The Reporting Persons intend to have discussions with representatives of the Issuer's management and board of directors relating to shareholder value, accounting issues, operational failures, underperformance relative to its peers and the Reporting Persons' lack of confidence in management. The Reporting Persons may also seek shareholder board representation if appropriate.
At the time of the filing, the stock was over $30 per share and now sits under $24. Icahn has since won the board seats he wanted in a definitive agreement with Hertz. What's next on Icahn's possibly secret agenda is anybody's guess beyond improving the company in the ways listed, but quite often he strives for a buyout at a substantial premium, and also quite often he gets his wish.
Reason 3: Fill 'er up for less
Real simple: Cheap gas means more travel and more demand for rental cars, since most car rentals are done at airports. Not only does cheaper fuel inevitably lead to cheap airline tickets, but the perception of affordability for travel also improves.
Oil prices are now firmly under $100 per barrel and actually under $90 at the time of this writing. As a result, gas prices are now at a four-year low and could be dropping further. Lower oil and gas prices should help provide fuel to lift Hertz, Avis Budget Group, and the stocks of others in their industry.
Another factor to keep in mind with cheap gas is that the temptation is far higher to upgrade to that gas-guzzling $80-per-day SUV rather than sticking with the discount $15 to $25 fuel-efficient car. According to Neil Abrams of Abrams Consulting Group, $4 gas beats up the demand for SUV rental. It stands to reason, then, that the discount at the pump will help lift average ticket sales, and profits at Hertz could act as a catalyst for upward stock price movement.
Nickey Friedman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford, Hertz Global Holdings, and Tesla Motors and recommends Ford and Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't 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.