Seinfeld's Frank Costanza may have found the magic ingredient for improving American Greetings'
The thoughtful husband enters. "Honey, I'm home. And I have a card for you."
And the curious wife responds, "But sugar pie, Valentine's Day was yesterday."
The eager husband counters quickly, "Yes, but today is Festivus."
Or, maybe Alice in Wonderland's "a very merry unbirthday" -- and a daily card that reads "Happy Birthday! Again?" -- could ignite the kind of year-round celebrations capable of supercharging card sales. Something creative, and perhaps even loony, is needed to solve the company's anemic growth.
Fool contributor Nathan Slaughter recently wrote that the company, known for its poetic greeting cards, was lacking a rhyme for its sluggish earnings report. Here's a brief recap of its latest results.
Fiscal 2005 fourth-quarter revenues of $490.9 million were 5.3% lower compared with the same period a year ago. Likewise, 2005 sales were 2.6% lower year over year, to $1.9 billion. To jump-start sales, perhaps the company can come up with a way to turn Bill Murray's Groundhog Day into a never-ending Valentine's Day: red heart-shaped cards galore.
Fourth-quarter operating expenses were $462.9 million: Expenses in the year-ago period were $445.2 million. Unfortunately, there's little that unbirthdays and unending Valentine's Days can do to improve margin pressure.
Net income for the fourth quarter was $21.4 million, a 56% decline compared with a year ago. The difficult quarter resulted in American Greetings' yearly earnings dropping to $1.39 per share, vs. 2004's $1.57. If this is a Festivus, it might resemble the bones of El Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead).
With declining earnings and revenue, shareholders are looking for a get-well-soon card; let's see if we can find one in the form of the company's cash. American Greetings has positive cash flow, sporting $250.3 million in cash and equivalents, plus $208.7 million in marketable securities. However, that's counterbalanced by $486.1 million in long-term debt.
Taking into account its balance sheet, with 69 million outstanding shares at the recent price of $23.64, American Greetings carries an enterprise value (EV) of $1.7 billion. The company has $104.8 million of trailing 12 months structural free cash flow (SFCF), giving it an EV/SFCF ratio of 16. Its owner earnings (SFCF) metric is equivalent to its valuation from an earnings perspective: trading at 16 times current-year estimated earnings of around $1.48 per share.
Quite frankly, this is an awfully rich price for this card, which lacks the poetic sound of growth. Until American Greetings can come up with some creative ways to ignite sales, potential investors should look for Festivus and unbirthday celebrations elsewhere.
Fool contributor Jeremy MacNealy does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned.
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