In the wake of the great financial crisis it can sometimes be difficult for Intelligent Investors to find a solid financial company in which to invest, because they require specific achievements over the historical period. Many investors may simply decide to throw out the worst years with the rationale that they are outliers that shouldn’t be considered when evaluating the company’s prospects, but doing so would involve speculation. We don’t know whether the financial crisis will happen again, but we do know that if it does, we can expect to see similar results as we did before. By continuing to require the same standards for the historical period, Intelligent Investors are able to whittle down banks to only those with the best financial position, and then they are able to determine an intrinsic value to get a sense of whether the company is a good investment. In addition, a company must have strong financial statements to prove that it is stable enough for Intelligent Investors. 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 Discover Financial Services (DFS) fares in the ModernGraham valuation model.
Company Profile (obtained from Google Finance): Discover Financial Services (DFS) is a direct banking and payment services company. The Company is a bank holding company, as well as a financial holding company. The Company provides direct banking products and services and payment services through its subsidiaries. The Company manages its business activities in two segments: Direct Banking and Payment Services. Direct Banking segment includes consumer banking and lending products, specifically Discover-branded credit cards issued to individuals and small businesses on the Discover Network and other consumer banking products and services, including private student loans, personal loans, home loans, home equity loans, prepaid cards and other consumer lending and deposit products. The Payment Services segment includes PULSE, Diners Club and the Company’s network partners business, which provides payment transaction processing and settlement services on the Discover Network.
Defensive Investor – must pass all 6 of the following tests: Score = 5/6
- Adequate Size of Enterprise – market capitalization of at least $2 billion – PASS
- Earnings Stability – positive earnings per share for at least 10 straight years – PASS
- Dividend Record – has paid a dividend for at least 10 straight years – FAIL
- 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
- Moderate PEmg ratio – PEmg is less than 20 – PASS
- Moderate Price to Assets – PB ratio is less than 2.5 or PB x PEmg is less than 50 – PASS
Enterprising Investor – must pass all 3 of the following tests or be suitable for a defensive investor: Score = 3/3
- Earnings Stability – positive earnings per share for at least 5 years – PASS
- Dividend Record – currently pays a dividend – PASS
- Earnings growth – EPSmg greater than 5 years ago – PASS
|Value Based on 3% Growth||$70.62|
|Value Based on 0% Growth||$41.40|
|Market Implied Growth Rate||1.25%|
Balance Sheet – June 2015
Earnings Per Share
Earnings Per Share – ModernGraham
Discover Financial Services qualifies for the Enterprising Investor but not the Defensive Investor. The Defensive Investor is concerned by the short dividend history, while the company passes all of the Enterprising Investor’s requirements. As a result, Enterprising Investors following the ModernGraham approach based on Benjamin Graham’s methods should feel comfortable proceeding with further research into the company and comparing it to other opportunities. As for a valuation, the company appears undervalued after growing its EPSmg (normalized earnings) from $2.49 in 2011 to an estimated $4.87 for 2015. This level of demonstrated growth is greater than the market’s implied estimate of 1.25% earnings growth and leads the ModernGraham valuation model, which is based on Benjamin Graham’s formula, to return an estimate of intrinsic value above the market 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 Discover Financial Services (DFS)? 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.
Disclaimer: The author did not hold a position in any of the 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.