If ever there were an easy dueling topic, it is arguing for the king of do-it-yourself retail, Home Depot
The distant past
Each $12 share at the initial public offering (IPO) on September 22, 1981 has split a lucky 13 times -- making the IPO price now $0.04 per share. The stock closed Monday at $37.48 a share.
The recent past
If you look at a 10-year chart, you have to ask, "What happened over the last five years? This stock cratered from an all-time high of $70 in 2000!" But, consider that over the past five years, earnings increased every year and compounded at 17.9% annually! Even the dividend increased every year. What's changed is that investors aren't paying the 40+ times earnings they did at times during 1998 through 2000. So, the company prospered and the stock settled to a more realistic valuation. Ah, this is going to be such an easy duel!
Home Depot is the world's largest home improvement retailer, the third-largest retailer in the world, and only Wal-Mart
One way the company keeps customers is its low-price guarantee. If a legitimate local competitor has the identical item -- even an advertised special (excluding close-outs, liquidations, and clearance items) -- at a lower price, Home Depot will sell it for 10% less.
"Yikes!" you say, what about its margins? Glad you asked! Home Depot's 11% trailing annual operating margin beat the 10.6% margin at industry No. 2 Lowe's
Oh, and one other fact. Since the high price-to-earnings days of 1999, operating margins have increased 0.9% to 10.8% in 2004. Said another way, Home Depot is getting more out of today's sales dollar for its shareholders. Boy, this is such an easy duel!
There is plenty of international growth potential. Of Home Depot's 1,911 stores, only 9% are outside the U.S. and all of those are located in Canada and Mexico. After three years, the company is already No. 1 in Mexico and plans are underway to enter China. The company hasn't forgotten the U.S. either -- it even opened two new urban-format stores in New York City.
Professionals are also in the company's sights. For example, The Home Depot Supply has 20 distribution centers that offer facilities management professionals' next-day delivery on thousands of items. Builders Solutions focuses on the production homebuilder and White Cap Construction Supply services medium to large contractors.
The company hasn't neglected its core business. Approximately $1 billion was spent on store remodels and refreshes last year. And, for those who want to use the Web, the company's website has 15,000 items for sale, including appliances.
Home Depot is also the largest U.S.-based tool-rental company (based on the number of locations) and now has 23 national installation programs for the do-it-for-me customer.
Best of all, same-store sales increased 5.4% last year.
Add it up: Home Depot has leveraged its knowledge and vendors to provide new services while also growing its core business. It's smart business -- didn't I say this would be easy?
The stock is trading for 15.5 times trailing earnings and analyst expect earnings to compound at 14% annually over the next five years -- faster than the 10.6% growth expected for the S&P 500. The dividend yield is 1.2% and the company has increased the dividend every year since 1993. Add in the company's stock-repurchase program and there is little left to duel over. Home Depot is a great growth company with an exciting future, it has excellent profit margins, and it sells for a reasonable price.
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