Hate completing and filing tax forms? Join the crowd -- and note the fine results being reported by industry titan H&R Block
Today, H&R Block reported that for the fourth quarter, tax preparation revenue rose 6.1% (and was a mighty 72.2% of total sales) over last year's comparable quarter -- the peak season because it includes April 15. Revenue from mortgage origination jumped 8.8%, representing 16.2% of total sales.
Net income increased 6.9% in the latest quarter. Tax preparation accounted for 84% of operating profit, while mortgage activities chipped in 16.5%.
Wall Street liked the numbers -- and the 2-for-1 stock split and the 13.6% increase in the dividend -- and sent the stock up by more than 10% to a 52-week high (though at $55.76, the stock is short of its all-time best of $60.71 reached in February 2004). What fueled this rise? The company's earnings guidance of $4.25 to $4.65 a share for the fiscal year ending April 2006 is a sharp 13% to 23.7% increase from fiscal 2005's $3.76 a share.
Do the math. At the high end of guidance, the stock prices at 14 times analyst estimates for 2006 earnings -- fairly close to the 12% earnings growth rate analysts see over the next five years. That's a reasonable price for a top-name brand.
Don't overlook, though, that H&R Block's stock price is a little less cheap when you consider that Jackson Hewitt prices at 12 times estimated 2006 earnings and is expected to grow earnings 20% a year for the next five years.
Still, H&R Block is a cash cow that is repurchasing its own stock and undertaking a multiyear plan to expand its tax preparation services. Not too shabby.
The threat of a return-free tax system being discussed by the President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform might tarnish the company's future. Until this threat is put to bed, it's my opinion that these stocks do not deserve an above-market premium.
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