May 10, 2014 Comments

Canadian Tire is updated and rated (lower) Buy at $111.29. Our last rating before this was Buy at $99.85, and before that it was (higher) Buy at $83.78 and it was (lower) Strong Buy at $68.65 back on February 24, 2013. On August 11, 2011 we had called it a Strong Buy at $52.11.

A year ago and certainly three years ago we would not have guessed it could go this high. In some measure the strong price rise is due to strong earnings – especially at its Sports Stores. Certainly in 2011 it was artificially low due to unfounded fears about the impact of Target. It was trading right down around its book value and at under 11 times earnings although it was well known that it had real estate that was worth far more than book value. The fizzling of the Target threat is part of the reason for the strong gains.

A good portion of the gains comes from financial engineering designed to make visible the value of the real estate and the credit card portfolio. By forming a REIT but retaining 83% of the REIT people can see the market value of that real estate. Similarly we found out on Friday that the finance division was worth about $2.5 billion as Scotia Bank is buying 20% for $$500 million.

Many analysts will do a sum-of-the-parts analysis and may conclude it is still under-valued. I focus on earnings. I don’t do any sum-of-the-parts-analysis at all. It only really applies to entities which have subsidiaries that also trade (like Canadian Tire) but is fairly rare and I simply don’t do that analysis.

At a current 16 times earnings its not expensive but it is certainly not the bargain it once was. Anyone with big gains on this would likely be prudent to reduce the holding. Say you put 5% of your portfolio into this in 2011 and it is now 8% of the portfolio. Prudence might suggest bring it back to 5%.

It’s still a great company and make do well but I don’t think we can possibly expect the leaps in price we have seen in the past 18 months or so. And it could always stumble from here. If I had a small position I would hold and look to add on dips.

One ironic thing is that surfacing the value in the REIT came at he cost of some earnings now flowing to the minority owners of the REIT who now own 17%. Canadian Tire got cash for that 17% but may not be earnings much on that cash. Similarly Scotia will now get 20% of the earnings on Finance and Canadian Tire may earn little on the $500 million received for that. For these reasons earnings growth may be hard to come by in 2014 and for example earnings per share were down slightly in Q1 2014.

I still have a fairly large position and may sell the part that is in non-taxable accounts.

On Friday the S&P 500 was up 0.1% and Toronto was down 0.1%.

Canadian Tire was up 3.3% as the analysts apparently liked the news better after having more time to analyze it.

On Friday my National Bank 4.1% preferred shares that I purchased at the IPO in early February for $25.00 were sold at $25.95. I will also receive a dividend of 27.24 cents per share which will be paid on Monday. So my return was $1.22 or 4.9% in just over three months. The yield on these is now down slightly to 3.95% which is perhaps not bad and beats cash. But as with the Canadian Western preferred shares that I mentioned a few days ago, I am happy to grab the 4.9% in such a short period of time and move on. If I saw these shares retreat to $25 I would quite possibly buy them again.

To the extent I decide I want more exposure to preferred shares perhaps I should buy instead more of the Bombardier preferred shares which yield about 7.0% — although those are perpetual shares and therefore come with a great deal of risk if interest rates were to rise significantly. Or for yield, I might look to buying more of the Boston Pizza. It’s basically a perpetual as well but its distributions should rise slowly over time offsetting some of the risk there. There is always Liquor Stores N.A. but I feel I have enough exposure to that and it is far different than any of the preferred shares.

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