Is Biglari Holdings' Stock Cheap by the Numbers?

By: Prince Damin

Numbers can lie but they're the best first step in determining whether a stock is a buy. In this series, we use some carefully chosen metrics to size up a stock's true value based on the following clues:

The consistency of past earnings and cash flow. How much growth we can expect. Let's see what those numbers can tell us about how expensive or cheap Biglari Holdings (NYSE: BH) might be.

The current price multiples:- First, we'll look at most investors' favorite metric: the P/E ratio. It divides the company's share price by its earnings per share the lower, the better. Then, we'll take things up a notch with a more advanced metric: enterprise value to unlevered free cash flow. This divides the company's enterprise value (basically, its market cap plus its debt, minus its cash) by its unlevered free cash flow (its free cash flow, adding back the interest payments on its debt). Like the P/E, the lower this number is, the better.

Analysts argue about which is more important earnings or cash flow. Who cares? A good buy ideally has low multiples on both. Biglari has a P/E ratio of 21.6 and an EV/FCF ratio of 11.1 over the trailing 12 months. If we stretch and compare current valuations to the five-year averages for earnings and free cash flow, Biglari has a P/E ratio of 59.6 and a five-year EV/FCF ratio of 36.1. A one-year ratio under 10 for both metrics is ideal. For a five-year metric, under 20 is ideal. Biglari is zero for four on hitting the ideal targets, but let's see how it compares against some competitors and industry mates. Numerically, we've seen how Biglari's valuation rates on both an absolute and relative basis.

The consistency of past earnings and cash flow:- An ideal company will be consistently strong in its earnings and cash flow generation. In the past five years, Biglari's net income margin has ranged from -3.8% to 4.4%. In that same time frame, unlevered free cash flow margin has ranged from -2.5% to 10.1%. How do those figures compare with those of the company's peers? See for yourself:

Additionally, over the past five years, Biglari has tallied up four years of positive earnings and three years of positive free cash flow.

How much growth we can expect:- Analysts tend to comically overstate their five-year growth estimates. If you accept them at face value, you will overpay for stocks. But while you should definitely take the analysts' prognostications with a grain of salt, they can still provide a useful starting point when compared to similar numbers from a company's closest rivals. Let's start by seeing what this company's done over the past five years. In that time period, Biglari has put up past EPS growth rates of -1.5%. Here's how Biglari compares to its peers for trailing five-year growth (because of losses, Denny's trailing growth rate isn't meaningful):

For the next five years, Wall Street analysts expect solid growth from all four. Biglari and Red Robin are projected at 13% while Ruby Tuesday's is just under them at 11% and Denny's is the growth leader at 19%. Again, though, be wary of future projections.

The bottom line:- The pile of numbers we've plowed through has shown us how cheap shares of Biglari are trading, how consistent its performance has been, and what kind of growth profile it has both on an absolute and a relative basis. The more consistent a company's performance has been and the more growth we can expect, the more we should be willing to pay. We've gone well beyond looking at a 21.6 P/E ratio, but if you find Biglari's numbers compelling, don't stop. Continue your due diligence process until you're confident that the initial numbers aren't lying to you.

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