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What are we looking for?

Companies with strong profitability and below-average valuations.

Companies with high multiples tend to have high expectations. At some point these expectations may exceed the company’s capabilities and result in a poor investment outcome. We believe that analyzing companies with solid profitability and reasonable valuations is an effective way to limit this risk and uncover attractive securities.

The screen

We screened North American stocks focusing on the following criteria:

  • Market capitalization greater than $1-billion;
  • Five-year mean return on capital higher than 10 per cent. We want a company with solid long-term profitability;
  • Free-cash-flow-to-capital higher than 12.5 per cent. We want a company that generates a high amount of free cash flow as a percentage of capital. It shows the company has plenty of capital to invest or to redistribute to shareholders;
  • A price-to-book ratio lower than two. We want a company that sells at a reasonable price based on shareholders’ equity;
  • A positive price-to-earnings ratio lower than 20. We don’t want to pay too much for the company’s profits.

For informational purposes, we have also included recent stock price, trailing 12-month return on capital, dividend yield and one-year return. Please note that some ratios may be reported as of end of previous quarter.

More about Inovestor

Inovestor for Advisors is a fundamental-analysis research platform specializing in the economic value-added (EVA) approach. With Inovestor, advisers can quickly identify attractive investment opportunities, outsource their stock picking by using model portfolios and easily communicate investment decisions with clients through client-friendly reports.In addition, Inovestor allows users to create personalized filters, build custom portfolios and carry out in-depth analysis on more than 13,000 companies (Canadian and U.S. stocks and American depositary receipts).

What we found

Home furnishings retailer Leon’s Furniture Ltd. generates a whopping 33.4-per-cent free cash flow as a percentage of capital. The stock is also inexpensive based on the price-to-earnings ratio of 11.1. With the lockdowns, individuals have necessarily cut back spending on social activities. Interest rates, meanwhile, have dropped substantially. Combined, these elements support the purchase of durable goods. This could explain the company’s above-trend return on capital.

Juice producer Lassonde Industries Inc. is a resilient company as evidenced by its five-year mean return on capital, which, at 14.1 per cent, is about equal to its most recent return on capital. The company’s earnings reports over the past year have been exceptional, owing largely to its market segment: retail consumers. It could be an interesting defensive choice in case of lower-than-expected economic growth or further COVID-19 restrictions.

Lumber, finishing products and pulp producer Canfor Corp. saw its stock price rise by 84.5 per cent in the past year as lumber prices soared by more than 75 per cent. The company is highly cyclical. An investor who believes that the economy will expand vigorously and who has a high risk tolerance may consider the stock to enhance portfolio returns.

Although the screener is for North American companies, it’s notable that five out of eight companies are Canadian, even with this country’s more limited universe of stocks. Valuation criteria (P/E and P/B) would seem to limit the number of U.S. companies, suggesting value investors may want to concentrate their search efforts in the North American market to Canadian-listed names.

Investors are advised to do further research before investing in any of the companies listed in the accompanying table.

Select North American stocks 

CompanyTickerMkt. Cap. ($)*FCF/Capital (%)ROC (5Y Mean, %)P/EP/BROC (%)1Y Price Rtn. (%)Div. Yld. (%)Recent Price ($)*
Leon's Furniture Ltd.LNF-T1,660.033.410.211.11.711.
Big Lots Inc. **BIG-N1,884.820.710.23.21.514.182.42.450.82
Lassonde Industries Inc.LAS-A-T1,192.618.
Universal Health Svcs.UHS-N10,971.117.910.212.61.810.4-12.30.6129.10
Canfor Corp.CFP-T2,963.915.
Discovery Comm. Inc.DISCK-Q16,477.914.420.613.51.619.
Westshore Term. Invest.WTE-T1,124.713.317.88.61.516.0-3.53.717.34
Interfor Corp.IFP-T1,617.313.011.718.11.614.358.60.024.04

Source: Inovestor. 

*Market cap and recent stock price figures are in native currency. **Please note that some figures for Big Lots are inflated by a capital gain caused by a sale-leaseback transaction of distribution centres.

Anthony Ménard is an investment analyst at Inovestor Asset Management.

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