Ecolab Inc. (ECL) Annual Valuation

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When a company has seen a lengthy rise in price, some investors have a tendency to believe that it must be a good investment because it keeps going up.  However, this is a common way of engaging in rampant speculation, and as Benjamin Graham taught, speculating has only a very limited role in investing.  Intelligent Investors know to do a thorough fundamental analysis of investment opportunities to determine their intrinsic value and inherent risk.  This is best done by utilizing a systematic approach to analysis that will provide investors with a sense of how a specific company compares to another company.  By using the ModernGraham method one can review a company’s historical accomplishments and determine an intrinsic value that can be compared across industries.  What follows is a specific look at how Ecolab Inc. fares in the ModernGraham valuation model.

Company Profile (obtained from Google Finance): Ecolab Inc. (Ecolab) develops and markets products and services for the hospitality, foodservice, healthcare and industrial markets. The Company provides cleaning and sanitizing products and programs, as well as pest elimination, equipment maintenance and repair services primarily to customers in the foodservice, food and beverage processing, hospitality, healthcare, government and education, retail, textile care, commercial facilities management and vehicle wash sectors. The Company business segments include United States Cleaning & Sanitizing segment, United States Other Services segment, International segment, Water Services segment, Paper Services segment and Energy Services segment. In April 2013, it acquired Champion Technologies and its related company Corsicana Technologies. In August 2013, Ecolab Inc. sold all the capital equipment design and build business of its Mobotec air emissions control business to The Power Industrial Group.

ECL Chart

ECL data by YCharts

Defensive Investor – must pass at least 6 of the following 7 tests: Score = 4/7

  1. Adequate Size of Enterprise – market capitalization of at least $2 billion – PASS
  2. Sufficiently Strong Financial Condition – current ratio greater than 2 – FAIL
  3. Earnings Stability – positive earnings per share for at least 10 straight years – PASS
  4. Dividend Record – has paid a dividend for at least 10 straight years – PASS
  5. Earnings Growth – earnings per share has increased by at least 1/3 over the last 10 years using 3 year averages at beginning and end of period – PASS
  6. Moderate PEmg ratio – PEmg is less than 20 – FAIL
  7. Moderate Price to Assets – PB ratio is less than 2.5 or PB x PEmg is less than 50 – FAIL

Enterprising Investor – must pass at least 4 of the following 5 tests or be suitable for a defensive investor: Score = 3/5

  1. Sufficiently Strong Financial Condition, Part 1 – current ratio greater than 1.5 – FAIL
  2. Sufficiently Strong Financial Condition, Part 2 – Debt to Net Current Assets ratio less than 1.1 – FAIL
  3. Earnings Stability – positive earnings per share for at least 5 years – PASS
  4. Dividend Record – currently pays a dividend – PASS
  5. Earnings growth – EPSmg greater than 5 years ago – PASS

Valuation Summary

Key Data:

Recent Price $103.15
MG Value $65.49
MG Opinion Overvalued
Value Based on 3% Growth $37.73
Value Based on 0% Growth $22.12
Market Implied Growth Rate 15.57%
NCAV -$26.69
PEmg 39.64
Current Ratio 1.50
PB Ratio 4.59

Balance Sheet – 9/30/2013

Current Assets $4,796,000,000
Current Liabilities $3,200,600,000
Total Debt $6,537,300,000
Total Assets $19,613,600,000
Intangible Assets $11,663,900,000
Total Liabilities $12,837,200,000
Outstanding Shares 301,300,000

Earnings Per Share

2013 (estimate) $3.54
2012 $2.35
2011 $1.91
2010 $2.23
2009 $1.74
2008 $1.80
2007 $1.70
2006 $1.43
2005 $1.23
2004 $1.19
2003 $1.06

Earnings Per Share – ModernGraham 

2013 (estimate) $2.60
2012 $2.09
2011 $1.93
2010 $1.89
2009 $1.67
2008 $1.58

Dividend History

ECL Dividend Chart

ECL Dividend data by YCharts

Conclusion:

Ecolab is not suitable for either the Defensive Investor or the Enterprising Investor.  For the Defensive Investor, the company’s current ratio is too low, and the company is trading at PEmg and PB ratios that are too high.  The Enterprising Investor is turned off by the company’s high level of debt relative to its current assets.  As a result, value investors seeking to follow the ModernGraham approach based on Benjamin Graham’s methods may wish to seek other opportunities through a review of companies that pass the ModernGraham requirements.  From a valuation point of view, the company appears to be overvalued.  Though it has grown its EPSmg (normalized earnings) from $1.58 in 2008 to an estimated $2.60 for 2013, this level of demonstrated historical growth does not support the market’s implied estimate for growth of 15.57%.  The ModernGraham valuation model then returns an intrinsic value that is less than the market’s current price.

The next part of the analysis is up to individual investors, and requires discussion of the company’s prospects.  What do you think?  What value would you put on Ecolab Inc. (ECL)?  Where do you see the company going in the future?  Is there a company you like better?  Leave a comment on our Facebook page or mention @ModernGraham on Twitter to discuss.

If you like our valuations, why not check out ModernGraham Stocks & Screens?  It’s a great way to review the valuations while screening for things like low PE ratio, undervalued companies, etc.!

Disclaimer:  The author did not hold a position in Ecolab Inc. (ECL) or any of the other companies listed in this article at the time of publication and had no intention of changing that position within the next 72 hours.

Logo taken from the Wikipedia; this article is not affiliated with the company in any manner.


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