Friday, June 15, 2007

Select Comfort's problems deepen

According to their second quarter update, Select Comfort management is questioning the new marketing strategy. Rather than revive sales, as I anticipated, the company expects sales to decline 5% from a year ago. If that happens, Select Comfort will need to find ways to cut expenses to avoid reporting an EPS loss this quarter. For the year, management is projecting 87¢ to 93¢ a share compared to 85¢ in 2006. They have also lowered sales projections to be 4% to 7% growth over last year, which seems optimistic given the very slow start to the year.

On the flip side, the release also suggested management has found expenses to cut, plans to release upgraded products, and is committed to buying back significant numbers of shares. Also, the Motley Fool points out, it is encouraging that management is taking responsibility for the problem. I had missed this Financial Times article from a few days ago that suggested management is weighing acquisition of businesses that would expand Select Comfort internationally or into bedding accessories. My guess is that these plans are on hold for now, but those are obvious paths to growth in the future.

If Select Comfort doesn't cut Sales and Marketing costs, which would be difficult given their focus on fixing marketing, I'm guessing they will lose 15¢ this quarter and only earn 55¢ this year. I'd consider this to be a fairly conservative estimate. Management's low end 87¢ a share might be more realistic given their insight into the problems, but it's hard to give them much more benefit of the doubt. Given the various growth opportunities and that we are likely at a trough in sales, 15% growth over the next ten years is not unreasonable. Beyond that, I'll assume no more than 3% (or slightly more than inflation) growth in the terminal value. I always use a discount rate of 11%, which is the long-term average of the S&P 500.

Given those assumptions, my DCF model results in fair value between $15.67 and $24.58:

EPS                 0.87    0.55
Historical Growth   2.50% -34.65%
5-year Growth      17.73%   9.11%
Growth             15.00%  15.00%
1                  $1.00   $0.64
2                  $1.15   $0.73
3                  $1.32   $0.84
4                  $1.52   $0.97
5                  $1.75   $1.12
6                  $2.01   $1.28
7                  $2.31   $1.48
8                  $2.66   $1.70
9                  $3.06   $1.95
10                 $3.52   $2.24
Discount rate      11.00%  11.00%
NPV growth        $10.62   $6.77
Stable growth       3.00%   3.00%
NPV terminal      $13.96   $8.90
Total             $24.58  $15.67

Select Comfort traded up to $17.13 at the close, so the market is definitely leaning toward the lower estimate. (Not that I think any market participant uses anything like my estimates. More likely, investors are using management's EPS estimates and knocking the growth rate down a notch or two.) Back in December, I predicted this scenario as a possibility when I bought more shares at $18. Obviously, I'd prefer results were better—especially given the change in advertising. Due to this news, I'm going to try selling a covered call at $17.50, which would be a 4% loss on my recent purchase if exercised. I still like the long-term prospects of the company, but I like the prospects of First Marblehead even more.

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