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I was looking through the list of top % gainers on the NYSE this evening and came across an old favorite of mine, Aeropostale (ARO) which closed at $42.06, up $1.95 or 4.86% on the day. I do not own any shares nor do I own any options on this company.
I first posted Aeropostale (ARO) on Stock Picks Bob's Advice on September 15, 2003, when the stock was trading at $27.25. On April 27, 2004, ARO had a 3:2 stock split making the effective stock pick price actually 2/3 of that amount or $18.17. Thus, with today's close, the stock has appreciated $23.89 or 131.5% since posting about 3 1/2 years ago.
Let's take an updated look at this company and I shall try to show you why I believe it still deserves a spot on this blog.
What exactly does this company do?
According to the Yahoo "Profile" on Aeropostale (ARO), the company
"...operates as a mall-based specialty retailer of casual apparel and accessories for young women and men in the United States. It designs, markets, and sells active-oriented, fashion and fashion basic merchandise principally targeting 11 to 18 year-old young women and young men under its own brands. The company offers graphic t-shirts, tops, bottoms, sweaters, jeans, outerwear, and accessories."
How did they do in the latest quarter?
On March 15, 2007, Aeropostale reported 4th quarter 2006 results. During the quarter total sales increased 16.5% to $506.8 million from $435.2 million for the same quarter in 2005. Same-store sales, a better indicator of the health of a growing retail firm, grew a less robust 2.2%.
Net income for the quarter came in at $57.3 million or $1.08/diluted share. Excluding a 'vendor concession, the company "achieved net earnings of $1.00 per diluted share, representing an increase of approximately 31.6%, when compared to the $.76 per diluted share in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2005."
The company beat expectations of analysts of $.99/share.
How about longer-term results?
Examining the Morningstar.com "5-Yr Restated" financials on ARO, we find that revenue has steadily grown since 2002 when the company reported $202 million in sales. This grew to $1.2 billion in 2006 and $1.34 billion in the trailing twelve months (TTM).
Earnings have increased from $.93/share in 2004 to $1.50/share in 2006 and $1.66 in the TTM. During this same time the company managed to reduce the number of shares outstanding from 55 million in 2004 to 53 million in the TTM.
Free cash flow has been positive and growing with $68 million reported in 2004 increasing to $86 million in 2006 and $125 million in the TTM. The balance sheet appears solid with $203.3 million in cash and $194.7 million in other current assets. This total of $398 million of current assets easily can cover both the $189.5 million in current liabilities and the $101.5 million in long-term liabilities. In fact, the current ratio, which is found by dividing the $398 million in total current assets by the $189.5 million in current liabilities yields a 'healthy' current ratio of 2.1.
What about some valuation numbers?
Examining Yahoo "Key Statistics" on Aeropostale, we find that the market cap at $2.21 billion represents a mid cap stock. The trailing p/e is moderate at 21.20 with a forward p/e (fye 03-Feb-09) of 15.99 even more reasonable. The PEG ratio (5 yr expected) is 0.78, making it also quite reasonably priced. I generally find a PEG of 1.0 to 1.5 an acceptable value.
Looking at the Fidelity.com eresearch website, we find that the Price/Sales (TTM) is a bit rich at 1.51, with an industry average of 1.10. Every once in awhile, I like to point my readers to the wonderful article by Paul Sturm, when he reminded all of us that a Price/Sales ratio is most important when compared to other companies in the same industrial group.
The company while not a great buy on the Price/Sales ratio, is attractive however, because of its profitability--at least as measured by Return on Equity (ROE) (TTM). In this case, ARO comes in at a ROE (TTM) OF 36.55%, ahead of the industry average of 21.96%.
Finishing up with some more Yahoo information, the company has 52.57 million shares outstanding with 51.58 million that float. As of 3/12/07, there were 5.84 million shares out short representing 11.3% of the float or 5 trading days of volume. Personally, I have arbitrarily chosen to use a 3 day cut-off of the short ratio, so this 5 day number may well have the potential of a short squeeze if the company continues releasing strong financial results.
The company does not pay a dividend and the last stock split was the 3:2 stock split on April 27, 2004
What does the chart look like?
If we examine a "Point & Figure" chart on Aeropostale from StockCharts.com, we can see a fairly steady record of price appreciation.
Summary: What do I think about this stock?
Basically, this has been a great stock pick on this blog with a terrific performance. The latest quarter was strong, the company beat earnings expectations and guided in line with the analysts for the upcoming quarter. I was little non-plussed by the 2.2% same store sales growth. Personally, I would like to see a retail firm consistently post close to 5% or greater same store sales growth to really catch my attention--however, in today's relatively weak retail environment, steady growth is important. Keep an eye on this company's same-store numbers in the months ahead! The Morningstar.com report was solid, with steady revenue growth, earnings, free cash flow, decreasing shares outstanding and a solid balance sheet. Valuation shows the Price/Sales a bit rich, but profitability was outstanding as measured by return on equity.
Overall, the numbers are impressive and
AEROPOSTALE (ARO) IS RATED A BUY
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