The search for bargains in the stock market is an ongoing challenge for any investor. Sometimes the challenge is harder than at other times; when the market is at or near historical highs, as it is right now for example, finding stocks that offer a legitimate value at their current price takes a little more work and effort. It also often means going against the grain of the broader market, since the best values are usually found in stocks that are trading at or near historical lows.
Thomson Reuters Corp (TRI) is a stock that offers a somewhat different profile. As of this writing, the stock is only about $6, or 12.5% below its all-time high price at around $48 per share, but still well above its 52-week low price, which is around $34 per share. That certainly puts the stock in correction territory; but perhaps not yet at quite the level a strict value investor might generally look for to believe the stock is deeply discounted enough to warrant a more serious look. I think there are some really interesting elements to look at, however, that at least make TRI a stock that long-term investors should be putting on their watchlists; you may even decide that the stock is worth a serious look as a good value investment right now.
Thomson Reuters is a multinational company, based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada that has been in existence since the 1850’s. The company deals in news and information services, including financial market, legal, and tax and accounting data. As you’ll see below, the company is a cash flow machine, with healthy operating profits, manageable debt, and a global footprint. Their latest quarterly earnings report was two days ago, and along with a generally positive financial report, also disclosed that they expect to complete a sale of a 55% stake in their Financial & Risk unit – the segment of their business that provides data and news primarily to financial customers, including brokerages and investment banks – to private equity firm Blackstone Group LP for $20 billion. A portion of those proceeds will be used to pursue expansion opportunities in their legal and accounting businesses.
Fundamental and Value Profile
Thomson Reuters Corp (Thomson Reuters) is a Canada-based provider of news and information for professional markets. The Company is organized in three business units: Financial & Risk, Legal, and Tax & Accounting. The Financial & Risk unit is a provider of critical news, information and analytics, enabling transactions and connecting communities of trading, investment, financial and corporate professionals. The Legal unit is a provider of critical online and print information, decision tools, software and services that support legal, investigation, business and government professionals around the world. The Tax & Accounting unit is a provider of integrated tax compliance and accounting information, software and services for professionals in accounting firms, corporations, law firms and government. The Company also operates Reuters, Global Growth Organization (GGO) and Enterprise Technology & Operations (ET&O). Thomson Reuters operates in over 100 countries. TRI’s current market cap is $29.7 billion.
- Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings and revenues both declined. This is a trend that has been typical of companies in the Capital Markets industry, and TRI’s performance was better than the industry average. TRI operates with a healthy margin profile, however, with Net Income a little more than 14% of Revenues over the last twelve months. This number also improved to nearly 50% in the most recent quarter.
- Free Cash Flow: TRI’s free cash flow is very healthy, at $1.9 billion at the end of the first quarter of the year. This number also increased dramatically from the beginning of the year, at around $1.1 billion, but declined about $25 million in the second quarter. The decline was attributed primarily to costs related to the Blackstone transaction.
- Debt to Equity: TRI has a debt/equity ratio of .40. Their balance sheet indicates their operating profits are more than adequate to repay their debt. The Blackstone sale, which should be completed by the end of the year will infuse even more cash (about $500 million in the last quarter) onto their balance sheet. Besides financing acquisitions as already observed, it will also give them the flexibility, if they choose to do so, to practically wipe out their long-term debt, which amounted to a little less than $5 billion.
- Dividend: TRI pays an annual dividend of $1.38 per share, which translates to a yield of about 3.28% at the stock’s current price.
- Price/Book Ratio: there are a lot of ways to measure how much a stock should be worth; but one of the simplest methods that I like uses the stock’s Book Value, which for TRI is $18.86 and translates to a Price/Book ratio of 2.22 at the stock’s current price. Their historical average Price/Book ratio is 2.28. That suggests the stock is fairly valued right now, which at first blush doesn’t imply a “screaming deal for a value-oriented investor. However, the Price/Cash Flow suggests a little different story, since it is trading almost 20% below its historical average.
Here’s a look at the stock’s latest technical chart.
- Current Price Action/Trends and Pivots: The red diagonal line measures the length of the stock’s intermediate downward trend, and also informs the Fibonacci trend retracement lines shown on the right side of the chart. The stock bounced off of trend support at around $36.50 to push up to its current price. Along the way, it has shown an almost picture-perfect, upward “stair step” pattern to establish its short-term upward trend. The stock has seen resistance around $42.50, which coincides with the 50% retracement line. A break above that level could see the stock push quickly to $44, with its 52-week high in the $48 range not far off from that point. The 38.2% retracement line, which is sitting at around $41, should act as a strong support level if the short-term trend has any chance of extending into an intermediate time period. A break below that level could see the stock drop back to its 52-week lows around $36 per share.
- Near-term Keys: If you prefer to wait for a more cut-and-dried value proposition on this stock, it might be safer to wait and see if the stock can reverse its short-term upward trend and push near to its yearly lows, or even to extend them a little more; that would put the stock’s Price/Book ratio significantly below its historical average and make the value argument more compelling than it may be today. If its bullish momentum, continues and the stock pushes above $42.50, a good short-term momentum trade could lie in buying call options, or the stock outright, with a short-term target price around $44 or $45 per share. If the stock breaks down, and you want to work with the bearish side, a good put option or short selling set up would come below $41, with a target price at around $36 per share.