Very few publicly traded companies are “all-in” or “all-out” affairs. The vast majority of investments feature a solid mix of pros and cons. But for Hertz Global Holdings, Inc (NYSE:HTZ), it’s extraordinarily difficult to see any other direction but down. Aside from facing severe technical pressures, HTZ stock must overcome a perfect fundamental storm.
The biggest obstacle is the passenger car rental market itself. I don’t care what you invest in, if your asset is tethered to a sinking industry, your profitability potential is immediately troubled.
And Hertz stock buyers are finding out the hard way that their expenditures aren’t a discount. Rather, these investments represent someone else’s problems dumped onto an unwitting party.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the car rental market’s producer price index has been flat since December 2015. The BLS defines the PPI as the “average change over time in the selling prices received by domestic producers for their output.” Furthermore, economics 101 tells us that in response to lower demand, producers lower prices. Unless a new economic theory exists of which I’m unaware, HTZ stock is in big trouble.
Car rental PPI last peaked in August 2009. Essentially, we’re on the road to no industry growth for a decade unless something dramatic occurs. Furthermore, the PPI has charted a trend of lower highs over the past eight years. Poor industry sentiment impacted Hertz stock rival Avis Budget Group Inc. (NASDAQ:CAR), which is down 12% year-to-date.
Even corporate transportation solutions provider Ryder System, Inc. (NYSE:R) is in red-ink for the year. Amerco (NASDAQ:UHAL) shares, which operates the ubiquitous subsidiary U-Haul International, disappointed investors until just recently.
At 33% in the hole YTD, Hertz stock can’t even claim that other competitors are doing worse. Don’t expect anything to change after its earnings report.
HTZ Is Troubled at Every Corner
HTZ will release their second quarter of fiscal 2017 earnings report before the opening bell. By any rational indication, investors may expect another bloodbath in a long series of bloodbaths. Analysts forecast Hertz earnings per share to come in at a loss of 16 cents. The estimate spectrum is exceptionally broad: 41 cents in the red at the low, a dime at the top.
At this juncture, it’s overkill to describe the financial outlook, but I’ll do it for posterity’s sake. In the year-ago quarter, analysts estimated Hertz stock to hit an EPS of 31 cents. The company beat that target by ten cents, producing a 32% earnings surprise. Even hardened bulls — if they exist — have to acknowledge the dramatic reversal of fortune.
Honestly, that’s just the easy part. Since the beginning of fiscal 2016, HTZ forwarded abysmal numbers. In Q1 of last year, Hertz reported an EPS loss of 80 cents. The estimate called for a loss of only a penny. Not including that miss, the earnings shortfall against expectations since Q3 FY 2016 averages a loss of 48%.
Revenue estimations don’t help matters. Wall Street expects HTZ revenues to hit $2.2 billion, down $100 million from the year-ago quarter. Unfortunately, sales growth has been Hertz’s sour point for the past three years, both nominally and against its competition.
Contrarians looking for a silver lining should stop their quest. According to InvestorPlace feature writer James Brumley, HTZ management gambled on an improving business environment, and got burnt.
An aggressive competitor acquisition burdened Hertz stock with debt. That situation has only become more problematic because of its junk-grade credit, and the aforementioned industry deterioration.
Industry Headwinds Stymie HTZ Stock
As is typically the case for beaten down investments, some might be tempted to buy HTZ stock under the thesis that it can’t get any worse. In addition, JPMorgan opened coverage of car rental shares, sending HTZ stock up over 10% on Friday. The renowned financial institution noted that bearish headwinds were overplayed.
But for those considering taking a shot on Hertz stock, I’d urge extreme caution. Not only is the rental industry terrible, the used car sector is equally bad, if not worse. The automotive second-hand automotive market’s PPI peaked in April of 2011. It’s been a steaming pile since then. Even if used cars gained traction, the sector must compete with new cars, which have also struggled. With both sides chopping prices, I don’t know where you make consistent profits.
And if that circumstance wasn’t bad enough, Hertz’s credit downgrade makes its debt financing incredibly difficult, per Brumley’s argument. Just one of these challenges would give any company massive headaches. To face all three is a perfect trifecta of pain.
When assessing Hertz stock, all you must do is consider the facts. Both car rental and used car markets are declining, according to the BLS. Several earnings reports have fallen short of Wall Street expectations, per major business publications.
Finally, aggressive tactics that didn’t pan out have weakened the balance sheet. The only good news is that the HTZ share price is “cheap.” But that by itself is no reason to go long.
As of this writing, Josh Enomoto did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.