NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Global payroll outsourcing specialist Paychex (PAYX) - Get Report will report fourth-quarter fiscal 2015 earnings results Wednesday before the opening bell. The company's products and services, which have helped Paychex beat the average analyst earnings estimate in seven of the last eight quarters, makes the company's stock one to watch in the quarters ahead.
For the quarter that ended May, Paychex is projected to earn 44 cents a share on revenue of $690 million, translating to year-over-year increase of 10% and 8%, respectively. For the full year, earnings are projected to grow 8% year over year to $1.85 a share, while revenue of $2.74 billion calls for growth of almost 9% year over year.
Headquartered in Rochester, N.Y., Paychex provides payroll processing, human resources, insurance and benefits outsourcing services to thousands of small to medium-sized businesses. The company offers tax and retirement services as well as regulatory compliance services, among others.
But it is Paychex's bread-and-butter payment services that has caught the attention of investors and traders. Paychex stock, which closed at $46.79 Monday, is up 1.4% so far in 2015 and has gained more than 13% in the past 12 months, besting both the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) and the S&P 500 (SPX) during that span.
With the market for both payroll and human resources on the rise, according toResearch and Markets, it would seem the market believes Paychex is one of the ways to play the projected growth in both payment processing and human resources services.
That said, Paychex shares aren't cheap today at 26 times earnings, agains a price to earnings ratio of 21 for the S&P 500 index. That's also because the average S&P 500 company does not possess some of the qualities Paychex can boast about.
Aside from its streak of earnings beats, the 45-year old company has a pristine balance sheet, carrying some $620 million in cash and with zero debt, as of the third quarter. Not only does that reduce the risk in Paychex shares, but when factoring the company generates some $900 million in operating cash flow, the stock is valued at just $2.40 a share on a cash flow basis.
Not impressed? Consider, Automatic Data Processing (ADP) - Get Report, for instance, a competitor more prominently known as ADP, trades at $4.41 a share on a cash flow basis. Not to mention, ADP also trades at a P/E that is two points higher. This is even though Paychex outperforms ADP in areas like gross margin (70% vs. 43%) and operating margin 38% versus 19%).
It would seem, then, that Paychex, which is projected to grow earnings in the next five years at an annual rate of 10% is not as expensive as its P/E would indicate.
Why? It doesn't make sense that Paychex outperforms ADP today in several key metrics and still be priced with a lower P/E than ADP, especially with both companies projected to grow earnings in the next five years at the same annual rate. Either the ADP's P/E must come down or Paychex's P/E should be higher.
All told, whether at the retail counter, person-to-person or businesses looking to better manage their payroll tasks, the payments industry is entering a period of change. Paychex looks well-positioned to capitalize on that growth. On Wednesday, assuming Paychex delivers another earnings beat, the market may have no choice but to agree.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no shares in any of the stocks mentioned.