Jefferies Sees 4 Great Undervalued Opportunities in Consumer Growth Sector

If the U.S. gross domestic product is so heavily dominated by consumer spending, it should be no mystery why so much effort revolves around that spending. The research team at Jefferies has decided to highlight many key takeaways that value growth across consumer spending — most importantly, where they see the big opportunities for investors now.

Jefferies screened for earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) growth of 10% or more within its consumer coverage. The analysts benchmarked that on an enterprise value over EBITDA (EV/EBITDA) and compared it to the EBITDA growth. The firm’s highest valuation names had store growth of 14% or more (a total of only nine companies). Then they looked for strong same-store sales, where comparable sales were 5% or higher, which yielded only six companies. They also found six companies tied to the consumer where total sales (online, same-store, existing store) were 20% or higher, plus an outlook for sustainable growth.

What was interesting here is that the lowest valuation names and laggards since the market turned up on February 11, 2016, actually garnered the most interest from Jefferies’ analysts. There were 53 companies reviewed in total, and these were the four names on which Jefferies went into great detail.

In the restaurants sector, Jefferies said that earnings growth visibility (or potential for upside) will be key. The firm currently prefers companies trading at a valuation discount, or those companies with a labor advantage to protect against what likely will be a more challenging wage environment.

One of the key stocks under challenging same-store sales that was viewed as attractive was the fairly recent IPO of El Pollo Loco Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: LOCO). It is rated as Buy at Jefferies, and shares were last seen trading up 1.9% at $13.55. The consensus analyst price target is $16.57, and the 52-week trading range is $9.58 to $29.20.

Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (NYSE: ANF) screened out in the Jefferies search as the most undervalued of the companies among department stores and specialty/softlines. This was due to 4.2 times the EV/EBITDA model and was valued at only 0.3 times its EBITDA growth. The company thinks that margins are recovering off trough levels, and Jefferies sees a potential for operating margins and earnings per share to nearly triple in three or four years.

Jefferies has a $50 target and a Buy rating on Abercrombie & Fitch. Shares were down 1.8% at $26.72, with a consensus price target of $28.62 and a 52-week range of $15.42 to $32.83.

Five Below Inc. (NASDAQ: FIVE) made the Jefferies screen as the most undervalued name in the broadlines and hardlines retail segment of the highest growers with 25% EBITDA growth and EV/EBITDA to growth at only 0.6 times. It is also one of the highest store growth rates at 20%, with same-store sales that are reaccelerating from improved marketing with lower costs of scale. Jefferies sees improved EBIT margin performance ahead for Five Below.

Jefferies has a Buy rating and $48 price target on Five Below. Its shares were trading down 1.4% at $41.17, with a consensus price target of $42.45 and a 52-week range of $26.95 to $43.42.

Murphy USA Inc. (NYSE: MUSA) led the way as the most undervalued name in food, drug and convenience retail when comparing its EBITDA metrics. On EV/EBITDA versus EBITDA growth, its valuation of 0.6 times is only two-thirds of its peer group. The discount is due to the market being concerned over cooling industry fuel margins, but Jefferies is confident in its growth projections and it thinks that company-specific efforts will grow fuel margins. It feels that a stronger valuation is warranted.

Murphy USA has a Buy rating at Jefferies and the firm’s target price is $74. The shares were trading at $58.48. The consensus price target is $71.50, and the 52-week range is $47.73 to $67.99.