ArcBest (ARCB)

truck

Key Statistics

Enterprise Value = $746.83 million

Operating Income = $142.67 million

EV/Operating Income = 5.23x

Price/Revenue = .22x

Earnings Yield = 9%

Debt/Equity = 42%

The Company

ArcBest is a logistics company that is split up into two segments: asset heavy (mainly shipping freight, and this is 69% of revenue) and asset-light (31% of revenue). The asset heavy segment is a trucking freight company, with a specialty in less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping. LTL is exactly as it sounds: it’s for shipping freights that aren’t big enough to comprise a full truckload. The light asset division provides logistics services.

The LTL business usually picks up goods at an individual company that isn’t large enough to fill an entire truck. Small shipments are then consolidated at a service center. From the service center, they’re then delivered with smaller vehicles from the service center to the end customer. Pulling this off requires infrastructure and heavy staffing. This creates a low margin capital intensive business, but it also creates significant barriers to entry. ABF Freight, ArcBest’s asset-based carrier, operates 245 service centers throughout the United States. This is a large enterprise that is difficult to duplicate.

The asset-heavy line of the business is also labor intensive. Truckers are expensive, and there is currently a shortage of them. Labor costs represent 51.9% of revenues.

My Take

ArcBest operates in a tough business but maintains decent cash flow generation and a stable financial position, with a debt/equity ratio of 42%, compared to 99% for the industry.

The stock is down 47% over the last 52 weeks, and it is due to the usual suspects. The market is worried about a recession, and that would significantly reduce freight throughout the US. The trade war and tariff worries are also weighing the stock down.

LTL is a brutal business, but it is a growing one. I think it is likely to grow more as e-commerce and total freight expands throughout the United States. Customers are ordering large goods online. As people order things like couches online, the demand for LTL services will grow. Trucking is also something that grows organically with the economy, as you can see from the below truck tonnage data from FRED.

trucktonnage

Meanwhile, ArcBest’s asset-light businesses (Fleet Net, Panther Logistics, ABF Logistics) are good businesses and are growing significantly. In 2013, these divisions produced $571 million in revenue. This has grown to $971 million in 2018. These businesses use technological solutions to help their clients navigate complex supply chains.

ArcBest has a high degree of financial quality. The debt/equity ratio is only 42%. The Altman Z-Score is 3.34, implying a low probability of bankruptcy and a permanent loss of capital. The F-Score is a solid 6. ArcBest also maintains a large cash stockpile, currently at $9.60 share, representing 37% of the current market capitalization. I suspect ArcBest keeps such a significant cash position because they contribute to a multiemployer pension plan for current and former employees. This can result in payments outside of expectations, which is why ArcBest likely stays on the safe side and maintains a significant amount of cash.

The current P/E of 11 compares to an industry average of 16. On a price/sales basis, Arcbest currently trades at 22% of revenue, compared to an industry average of 99%. The stock currently trades at 4x cash flow. The EV/EBIT multiple is currently 5.23x, compared to a 5-year average of 14.57. As recently as 2018, the company traded at 10x EV/EBIT, which seems right for a company of this kind.

ArcBest certainly faces some uncertainty, but I think it is currently mispriced by the market and it is in a strong financial position which makes up for the tough business it is engaged in. They are also growing their asset-light division, which ought to improve returns on capital over the long run.

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