Should You Chase BJ’s? (BJ, COST, WMT)

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BJ’s Wholesale Club Inc. (NYSE: BJ) appears to be one of the few standouts in retail right now.  How many companies are in retail are beating already-raised guidance and still raising forecasts ahead?  The big box retailer posted earnings gains of about 24% with $0.48 EPS, and that is after a $0.01 Charge.  The company had previously offered guidance of $0.45 to $0.49, and that was raised to $0.36 to $0.40 earlier on.  If you look through the numbers in this economic climate, you might think that BJ’s would be good for traders and investors.

BJ’s is the third largest of the big box and warehouse club operatorsbehind Wal-Mart’s (NYSE: WMT) Sam’s Club and Costco (NASDAQ:COST), and it charges club fees annually just like the others.  Thedifference here is that BJ’s also raised its full-year earningsprojections. It raised estimates to $2.20 to $2.30 EPS versus its priorrange of $2.10 to $2.20 EPS.  First Call estimates were $2.22 EPS.

Shares are currently up over 3% at $34.74 and the 52-week trading range is $26.36 to $44.29.

If a retailer is beating earnings and still managing to raise guidance,why are shares only up 3%?  The answer is because of some simple valuations.  Ifthe company hits the mid-point of its guidance, this still trades at15.4-times fiscal earnings.  Costco is on a different calendar year andthat does not end until next August, but it trades at 14.9-timesforward earnings.  Wal-Mart trades at 15.3-times its forward earnings estimates.

While everyone might otherwise love BJ’s, it seems that the good newsmay mostly be factored in on a relative value basis today.

Jon C. Ogg
November 19, 2008