Best Buy Is Still Undervalued, Even as Its Turnaround Accelerates

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- If you've blinked, chances are you've missed one of the better turnaround stories in retail -- Best Buy (BBY). Although the electronics retailer is not back to its robust operating performances from a decade ago, Best Buy has done what many thought was impossible: escaping the death-grip of e-commerce giant Amazon (AMZN).

There are several reasons why Best Buy stock was in the bargain bin, as we said Wednesday, ahead of Best Buy's first-quarter earnings results. And the shares won't be cheap for long. There's evidence of improvement everywhere in Best Buy's numbers.

Now with Best Buy stock shooting up as much as much 8% in two days, owing to a better-than-expected fiscal first-quarter 2016 report, it's time to revise projections upward for Best Buy stock. The reason? The risk vs. reward now tips heavily on the positive side.

One reason to have been concerned about Best Buy -- aside from the threat of being bested by Amazon -- is that April retail sales data showed that consumers didn't spend as much as the market had hoped. That, along with fears that the economy is growing at a slower rate, implied that retail spending in the months and quarters ahead would be equally tepid.

But there was little evidence of this weakness in Best Buy's first-quarter results. The Richfield, Minn.-based electronics retailer credited its strong numbers to higher volume for things like large televisions, mobile phones and major appliances, which the company said helped offset weakness in products like tablets and computers.

Here's what Hubert Joly, the company's CEO, had to say.

"While merchandising, marketing and operational execution were the tactical drivers of our better-than-expected first-quarter financial results, strategically, we believe the cumulative impact of the progress we have made to improve our multi-channel customer experience is what has allowed us to consistently outperform the market."

This means that, even though consumers might have spent less in April, Best Buy found ways to move some key products. And even though net revenue declined about 1% year over year to $8.56 billion from $8.64 billion, that was partly due to foreign currency fluctuations that devalued sales outside of the U.S. And Best Buy took a revenue hit from its Canadian brand, which the company is actively consolidating.

In terms of profit, Best Buy earned $129 million, or 36 cents per share, during the three months ended May 2. While this compares negatively to the year-ago quarter's earnings of $461 million, or $1.31 per share, that's also because Best Buy last year benefited from a one-time tax structure change that boosted earnings by $1.01 per share.

When adjusting out this tax benefit and other one-time items, earnings for the quarter were 37 cents per share, 8 cents better than what analysts were looking for.

What does all of this mean?

Best Buy, which has been cutting costs and revamping stores to improve results, is making real progress under CEO Joly, who took over in 2012. Services -- like shipping products directly to consumers from all its stores -- are negating the threat from online retailers, albeit moderately. But improvement is what investors want to see, and there's evidence of this everywhere in Best Buy's numbers.

Best Buy stock still looks undervalued. Analysts place an average 12-month price target at $43, though the stock is now in the $34 range.

Investors would do well to place a bet here and enjoy the company's recovery.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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