Over the past few weeks, Equifax Inc. (NYSE:EFX) has continued to reveal breaches and other violations of investor trust, all of which have placed EFX stock under a cloud. But this might not have the impact you’d expect. Although the news is sure to anger the public, the negativity is unlikely to affect the stock in the long-term.
The negative Equifax stock news is likely a buying opportunity because its other business lines minimize the negative effects on the stock price.
As investors might recall, EFX announced a data breach involving over 140 million Americans on Dec. 7. This is more than three times the number of people that were affected by the Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT) data hack in 2013. Since the announcement, other related issues have been exposed. For example, the Department of Justice (DOJ) opened a criminal probe on top executives who sold the stock after the discovery of the data breach and before Equifax publicly announced the infraction.
As a result, the company announced the resignation of CEO Richard Smith on Sept. 27. Soon after, the company admitted Smith still had eligibility on $18.4 million worth of pension benefits.
Additional revelations about an increased number of consumers affected and the hacking of driver’s license data have further harmed the company’s reputation. Further, on Oct. 12, the company revealed another possible data breach and it took one of its websites down. EFX stock fell to new lows for the month before moving upward again. Finally, amid political pressure, the company lost a recently acquired contract with the IRS this week.
Equifax Stock Can Still Be Saved
All the various breaches and revelations stoke investor fear and public anger, but despite these issues, the negative Equifax stock news is unlikely to affect the company in the long-term.
First, EFX derives most of its business from other sectors. As I mentioned in a previous article, the company earns most of its revenue from its international operations, workforce solutions and global consumer divisions.
Consumers may turn instead to companies such as Experian plc (ADR) (OTCMKTS:EXPGY) or TransUnion (NYSE:TRU) for their information needs. However, U.S. Information Solutions represents 36% of Equifax’s business.
Second, thanks mostly to its involvement in other spaces, EFX’s financial metrics still appear strong. After falling because of the data breach, the price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio has returned to 23. Further, the company still reports double-digit growth in both revenue and net income.
Also, dividends have grown annually since 2010. Equifax stock now pays an annual dividend of $1.56 per share. The company scheduled its earnings call for Oct. 25. At that time, investors will gain a clearer picture of how extensively the data breach affects revenues and income.
Bottom Line on EFX Stock
Finally, it’s likely that the company’s recover has already begun. As of this writing, EFX stock is up over 15% from the low of $90.72 per share it reached on Sept. 15.
A return to the low $90’s is certainly possible, but the increase over the last month indicates investor interest in Equifax stock is alive and well. Further, a return to the low $90’s followed by a bounce could have the effect of increasing investor confidence. Many investors see double-bottoms as a floor on the stock price.
It’s also important to note that lawmakers have inquired as to whether agencies can regulate credit rating agencies. Currently, only the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regulates companies like EFX. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo leads this charge. He has spoken with the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Comptroller of the Currency to report on the extent of their authority in regulating credit rating agencies.
On the surface, investors might think of more regulation as an increased burden. However, if Equifax can pass muster with federal regulators, these agencies could restore some of the confidence lost from the recent data breach.
As strange as it may sound (given the current uproar), the “bad” news has actually made EFX stock an attractive buy.
The allegations shook confidence in the company, and they will likely lead to high legal costs. However, the company earns most its revenues outside of its U.S. Information division. For investors who can assume some risk, Equifax’s breach of consumer confidence creates a buying opportunity in a solid business.
As of this writing, Will Healy did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned stocks.