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What are we looking for?

Canadian companies growing their cash flow.

The screen

In uncertain times, the ability of a company to generate consistent and growing cash flow is important. For a corporation, healthy cash flow allows management to effectively cover its obligations to shareholders (via dividend distributions) as well as debt holders (coupon payments). Additionally, having a growing source of cash flow gives a company the flexibility to invest in capital projects that may bring profits in the future.

This week, I use Morningstar CPMS to look for companies that share a combination of the following metrics:

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  • Free cash flow yield (cash flow from operating activities in excess of capital expenditures divided by enterprise value, higher figures preferred);
  • Five-year earnings-per-share deviation (a statistical measure of how volatile a company’s earnings have been, lower figures preferred);
  • Five-year cash flow growth rate (on average, how much cash flow has grown each year in the past five years);
  • Annual and quarterly cash flow momentum (latest four quarters of operating cash flow compared with the same figure four quarters and one quarter ago, respectively).

To qualify, stocks must be one of the largest 250 companies in Canada by market capitalization, excluding unit trusts. Additionally, companies must have trailing return on equity that is positive in order to qualify.

More about Morningstar

Morningstar Research Inc. provides independent investment research in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia. Its research tool, Morningstar CPMS, provides quantitative North American equity research and portfolio analysis to institutional clients and financial advisers. CPMS data cover more than 95 per cent of the investable North American stock market. With more than 120 equity and credit analysts, Morningstar has one of the largest independent institutional equity research teams in the world.

What we found

I used Morningstar CPMS to back test this strategy from August, 2004, to May, 2019. During this process, a maximum of 15 stocks were purchased and equally weighted with no more than four for each economic sector. Once a month, stocks were sold if their rank fell below the top 35 per cent of the 250-stock universe. When sold, the positions were replaced with the highest-ranked stock not already owned in the portfolio. Over this period, the strategy produced an annualized total return of 13.4 per cent while the S&P/TSX Composite Total Return Index advanced 7.5 per cent.

The 14 stocks that qualify for purchase today are listed in the accompanying table. It is always recommended to speak to a financial adviser or investment professional before investing.

Canadian companies growing their cash flow

RankCompanySymbolMkt. Cap. ($ Mil.)FCF Yield (%)5Y EPS Dev.5Y CF Growth (%/Y)Ann. CF Momentum (%)Qtly. CF Momentum (%)Trailing ROE (%)Recent Close ($)Div. Yield (%)Price Chg. from Month End, 12M Ago (%)
1Air CanadaAC-T10,648.417.032.033.564.365.017.939.540.086.1
2Kirkland Lake GoldKL-T11,044.56.029.655.185.219.627.452.590.488.9
3Aecon Group Inc.ARE-T1,168.720.520.416.846.52.58.519.463.025.9
4Manulife FinancialMFC-T46,699.327.910.811.217.76.713.623.734.20.5
5iA Financial Corp.IAG-T5,698.310.03.912.67.81.911.553.353.45.1
6Dollarama Inc. *DOL-T14,711.02.42.637.58.90.317,230.346.740.4-8.3
7Genworth MI CdaMIC-T3,753.611.05.05.51.912.111.642.854.80.2
8TFI International TFII-T3,482.75.313.922.952.010.421.541.332.31.9
9Alim. Couche-TardATD-B-T49,723.54.36.725.541.715.323.588.110.654.3
10Constellation Soft.CSU-T26,274.73.34.222.831.88.886.81,239.870.421.6
11CGI Inc.GIB-A-T25,241.04.42.44.021.13.518.6102.800.023.4
12MTY Food GroupMTY-T1,623.75.77.727.218.16.011.664.511.028.1
13Parkland FuelPKI-T6,102.62.240.925.4115.214.120.241.702.929.1
14Bank of MontrealBMO-T64,192.41.62.512.236.83.114.0100.514.1-1.1

Morningstar CPMS

Note that Dollarama Inc. shows an exuberantly high return on equity because of its low or negative book value of equity. This was accounted for in our analysis. 

Ian Tam, CFA, is a relationship manager for CPMS at Morningstar Research Inc.

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