Tupperware’s Stock as Sturdy as Its Products

by Lawrence Meyers | March 14, 2013 9:20 am

In the world of plastic food containers, I have tried all sorts of brands in an effort to save money over the premium product provided by Tupperware (NYSE:TUP[1]) … and every time I have regretted my choice. All those other plastic containers are inferior — the tops don’t close tightly, if they close at all, and they shrink in the dishwasher or, in some cases, melt.

I’m willing to pay extra for quality in this case … and such a high-quality product makes for a high-quality stock.

Of course, the company is also far more than what we think it is. Besides its now-namesake containers and other plastic products, it offers omelet makers, rice makers, universal knife sharpeners, beauty products and more.

Plus, Tupperware isn’t just an American phenom; it sells its products in 100 countries! In fact, 59% of company revenue comes from emerging markets, and nearly 90% of revenue is generated internationally. The U.S. is only a small player in Tupperware’s empire.

The pride of Tupperware is its sales force, which includes 1,700 distributors, 81,000 managers and 2.7 million worldwide dealers. Ever been to (or heard of) a Tupperware party? It turns out the company relies primarily on this method of sales.

In fact, if you have a neighbor who’s trying to get you into Tupperware, chances are they were given sales promotions, training aid and even motivational conferences from the company. The company loves its sales force and uses catalogs and advertising to generate leads for sales and new dealers. The company doesn’t even need a huge number of warehouses, as it relies on distributors to stock inventory and fulfill orders of the sales army.

The process sounds surprising, but actually makes perfect sense since it allows for demonstration of products. Plus, unlike other multi-level marketing companies which seem forever destined to have their model questioned, Tupperware is actually focused on what matters: the product. Only 10% of Tupperware buyers are also distributors vs. 30% for Herbalife (NYSE:HLF[2]) … so end users of the product apparently aren’t being recruited.

Tupperware’s financials are also as study as its containers: $119 million in cash and $414 milion in debt. Free cash flow was $223 million in 2012 — consistent with the past several years — and around $78 million of it was paid in dividends.

Plus, notice the disparity in FCF and dividends paid … think Tupperware could afford to pay back more to its shareholders? The obvious answer is yes. In fact, the company announced in January that it was raising its dividend a whopping 72% — from 36 cents per share to 62 cents per share.

On top of that, more shareholder returns will come with increased share repurchases. The company’s repurchase authorization has increased from $1.2 billion to $2 billion. The company already repurchased 1.57 million shares in its last quarter alone, spending some $100 million.

More good news: All the free cash is coming from strong results. In local currency, sales gained 6% to $711 million last quarter, while net income was up 16% to $74.5 million, or $1.34 per diluted share. Some of this growth has likely been driven by increases in the company’s international sales force. Europe’s sales force increased 9%, Asia Pacific saw a 6% increase and South America enjoyed a 13% increase.

The main cause for concern is the fact that stalwarts like this have been very expensive in this market. But company earnings are growing at around 12%, and when you factor in the 3.1% dividend, you’re looking at 15% long-term growth. With emerging markets being the driver for Tupperware, I think this growth analysis is correct. A 15x P/E on FY13 earnings of $5.71 give it a fair value right around $85, while the stock is only trading for $77 currently.

With that in mind, I think this is a solid portfolio play — still fresh in its container after all these years.

As of this writing, Lawrence Meyers did not own a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

Endnotes:
  1. TUP: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=TUP
  2. HLF: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=HLF

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