Want to limit trade war risk? Check out SCS

July 3, 2018

Want to limit trade war risk? Check out SCS

New Trump-imposed tariffs on China, Mexica and Canada are set to take effect at the end of this week, with retaliatory tariffs from those countries on the U.S. scheduled at the same time. The hand-wringing from politicians, talking heads and business experts continues to dominate the headlines, and I expect that the longer it continues, the more the broad market is going to have a hard time finding any really strong bullish momentum. Whether or not that translates to anything approximating a bear market also remains to be seen, no matter what the naysayers claim. Most economists and business executives, on both sides of the argument, do agree that in the long-term a trade war affects all sides negatively. I’ve even heard a few recently refer to an extended trade war as “mutually assured destruction” that will ultimately force all of the countries involved to eventually work out some kind of agreement. How soon will that happen is anybody’s guess, of course, so for the time being expect uncertainty and speculation to keep dominating the headlines and the news wires.

As an investor, you can use the fact that a lot of companies that could, or will be directly affected by tariffs are likely to see their stocks underperform. In some cases, stocks currently at or near high levels could be pushed much, much lower, and that could create some nice value-oriented opportunities to pay attention to. As a contrarian-minded investor, I like that idea quite a bit, and so I’m watching a lot of those stocks pretty closely. Another smart thing you can do is to try to identify stocks whose actual exposure is likely to be more limited. Steelcase Inc. (SCS) is a stock that has been in business since 1912, but whose small-cap status means you’ve probably never heard of them. Despite that fact, SCS is the world’s largest maker of office furniture and office furniture systems. This is a company with a very good fundamental profile and what I think looks like a great value profile. At its current price, I also think that it represents a low-risk option if you’re looking for a way to invest in a stock that could provide some good long-term growth potential even as the U.S. keeps wrangling with its global trading partners.

Fundamental and Value Profile

Steelcase Inc. provides an integrated portfolio of furniture settings, user-centered technologies and interior architectural products. The Company’s segments include Americas, EMEA and Other Category. The Company’s furniture portfolio includes panel-based and freestanding furniture systems and complementary products, such as storage, tables and ergonomic worktools. Its seating products include task chairs, which are ergonomic seating that can be used in collaborative or casual settings and specialty seating for specific vertical markets, such as healthcare and education. Its technology solutions support group collaboration by integrating furniture and technology. Its interior architectural products include full and partial height walls and doors. It also offers services, which include workplace strategy consulting, lease origination services, furniture and asset management and hosted spaces. Its family of brands includes Steelcase, Coalesse, Designtex, PolyVision and Turnstone. SCS has a current market cap of $1.2 billion.

  • Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings have declined while sales increased slightly. Most of the earnings decline was attributed in their last quarterly report to increased commodity costs in the U.S. while most of the increase in sales came from the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) region, with the greatest portion of overseas growth coming from Germany and the U.K. Revenues from EMEA operations totaled about 18.2% of the company’s total revenues, while the Asia Pacific region contributes less than 15%. The company cites Brexit uncertainty as a risk to its EMEA sales growth. Tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the U.S. could actually benefit SCS as Canada and China provide most of the international competition in their industry.
  • Free Cash Flow: SCS’ Free Cash Flow is pretty cyclical, and declined almost 50% over the last quarter, but remains generally healthy, with almost $135 million in cash and liquid assets on their balance sheet.
    Debt to Equity: SCS has a debt/equity ratio of .36, which is pretty conservative. Their operating profits are adequate to service their debt, with good liquidity from cash to provide additional stability in this area if necessary.
    Dividend: SCS pays an annual dividend of $.54 per share, which at its current price translates to a dividend yield of 3.89%.
  • 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 SCS is $6.93 per share. At the stock’s current price, that translates to a Price/Book Ratio of 2.0. Ratios closer to 1 are usually preferred from a value-oriented standpoint, however higher multiples aren’t that unusual, especially in certain industries. The average for the Office Services & Supplies industry is 1.8, while the historical average for SCS is 2.7. I usually prefer the historical average as a measuring stick, which provides a long-term target price of $18.71. That’s 35% higher than the stock’s current price and would put the stock in the neighborhood of its 2-year high price.

Technical Profile

Here’s a look at the stock’s latest technical chart.

  • Current Price Action/Trends and Pivots: The stock is hovering near to its 2-year low price and appears to be holding solid support a little above $13 per share. Since October of last year, the stock has traded within a roughly $2 range, with resistance around $15.50 and support as already mentioned around $13. The stock’s highest level is around $18 per share, just a little below the long-term target price the value analysis I referred to in the last section provides. The stock’s all-time high is around $20 and was last reached in late 2015.
  • Near-term Keys: With the stock currently pivoting higher off of support around $13, and resistance likely around $15.50, there is some room for short-term traders to speculate on a bullish move of about $2 in the short-term. That could be a good swing trade using call options or buying the stock outright. If you’re willing to work a longer-term viewpoint, the $18 range is a reasonable level to work with as well. If the stock breaks its support around $13, it should find additional support around $12 per share. Downside risk in either the short-term or the long-term appears to be pretty low, which also means trading opportunities on the bearish side for this stock provide a very low probability of success.

By Thomas Moore Investiv Daily Risk Tariffs Value Investing Share: