AutoZone (AZO) shares, at $784, are stuck in neutral, up just 3% for the year to date.The company reports fiscal first-quarter earnings on Tuesday.
Will the stock shift gears on the results? For now they seem to be running on fumes, underperforming the market in the last year.
On Sept. 22, AutoZone reported fourth-quarter earnings of $14.30, in line with the consensus estimate and up 12.2%. Revenue was $3.4 billion, up 3.3%. Domestic same-stores sales rose 1%. Net income was up 6.4%. Gross margins were 52.8%, up 30 basis points. For the year, AutoZone said sales were $10.6 billion, up 4.4%, and same-store sales rose 2.4%. Earnings per share increased 13% to $40.70 per share.
In the fourth quarter, AutoZone bought back 482,000 shares at a cost of $370 million. For the year, the company spent $1.45 billion to repurchase 1.9 million shares are an average cost of $763 per share. At year-end, the company had $395 million remaining under its buyback authorization.
Last year, AutoZone opened 156 new domestic stores, 43 international stores and six IMC branches. As of the end of August, AutoZone had 5,297 stores in 50 states, 483 stores in Mexico, 26 IMC branches and eight stores in Brazil for a total count of 5,814.
Despite strong new car sales over the last few years, the spare parts markets that AutoZone services is huge. The Auto Care Association estimates there are 260 million light vehicles in operation. There are approximately 40 to 45 million used vehicles sales per year and the service business is about $268 billion in size. AutoZone's customers break down into two categories: "Do-it-For-Me" (DIFM) and Do-it-Yourselfers (DIY).
The DIFM market is typically made up of independent mechanics that fix older cars that are out of warranty. Generally speaking these cars are seven years or older. Mechanics need spare parts in less than two hours so customers can get back on the road.
Thus AutoZone and on time delivery is a very important part of an auto mechanics business. The company estimates it has just 12% of the DIFM market. The DIY market is made up of individuals who like to work on their cars. The DIFM market is estimated to be a $182 billion market, while the DIY is about $54 billion in size.
AutoZone plans to expand its "enhanced delivery" program to another 1,000 locations, meaning they will get parts three to five times a week instead of once. By the end of fiscal 2017, the company expects to have 3,000 locations on the program and open two to three distribution centers to service the expanded delivery stores.
Analysts estimate, AutoZone will grow sales 5% in fiscal 2017 on top of the 4.4% growth the company saw last year. Fiscal 2017 revenue is expected to be $11.15 billion. With an aggressive share repurchase program and same store sales in the 1% to2% range, the company should earn about $45.43.
So what should you do? AZO trades at 17.5 times forward earnings, so I think the stock can reach $795 per share. At the current price the stock is less than 2% from my target, so I would wait for the stock to run out of gas and correct before buying.