Cash Flow Growers

07/24/2013 9:00 am EST


Richard Moroney

Editor, Dow Theory Forecasts

To uncover attractive cash-flow growers, we screened for companies that increased both cash provided by operations (CPO) and free cash flow over the past 12 months. Here's two that rank as best buys, says Richard Moroney of Upside Stocks.

To find shareholder-friendly companies, we looked for firms that have increased their dividend this year or actively repurchased shares in recent quarters, reducing the number of shares outstanding.

Buybacks have trimmed 7% off the shares count at GNC Holdings (GNC) over the past year. In the March quarter, the company repurchased $61 million in stock under a $250 million buyback authorized in February.

That month, management also increased the quarterly dividend 36% to $0.15 per share. A leading provider of health and wellness products, GNC has more than 8,200 locations in nearly 60 countries.

Shares earn an Overall score of 92, paced by strong scores for Momentum (86), Quality (97), and Earnings Estimates (86).

Impressive cash-flow trends, robust online sales, and favorable pricing should help fuel profit growth. In addition, a new Gold Card membership program should drive foot traffic and boost same-store sales.

For 2013, analyst estimates target per-share earnings of $2.80, up 20%. Revenue should increase 10%.

For 2014, the consensus calls for another 20% profit gain. At 16 times estimated current-year earnings, shares seem reasonably valued considering the growth outlook. GNC is a best buy.

Hanesbrands (HBI) is putting its surging cash flow to use. In the 12 months that ended in March, the apparel maker saw CPO increase more than threefold to $563 million. Free cash flow was $526 million, up from $101 million.

Over the past year, rising cash flow helped trim long-term debt by $500 million, or 30%. In April, Hanesbrands initiated a quarterly per-share dividend of $0.20—the first payment since 2006.

Cash flow is earmarked for a mix of dividends, niche acquisitions, and share repurchases. Notably, a robust product pipeline should drive sales growth and sustain pricing and profit margins.

For 2013, consensus estimates project Hanesbrands will grow per-share earnings 32% to $3.45, and estimates have drifted higher in the past two months.

Shares trade at 15 times estimated current-year earnings, 15% below the median for apparel makers in the S&P 1500 Index. Hanesbrands, capable of reaching $58 over the next 12 months, is rated a best buy.

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