One year ago, OfficeMax (OMX) reported quarterly operating income of $41 million, resulting in a market cap of around $1.5 billion. This year's third quarter was remarkably similar, with the office supplies distributor once again bringing in operating earnings of around $41 million. But today, the market cap sits at just $380 million, despite an improved balance sheet from last year!
At first glance, it would appear as if this company's debt burden justifies the low price. But the fully-consolidated debt line item doesn't apply. As discussed in a previous post, most of the debt is non-recourse, as it is held in a bankruptcy-remote subsidiary. Considering only the debt the company is actually responsible for, OfficeMax actually has a net cash position. At $200 million, it's a net cash position that represents more than 50% of this profitable company's current market cap!
Make no mistake, however, this is a low-margin business. But Mr. Market's asking price fully takes this into account: The P/S ratio is 0.05! (Note that Staples trades at a P/S of 0.35.)
New management came in about a year ago with the goal of increasing margins incrementally over the next three to four years. The new CEO is stressing more pilot programs and more measurements of the success of those programs (rather than large, risky investments that may not pay off). He appears to be expressing some confidence in the most recent results (or the low stock price), as he has been buying shares in the open market.
Last time OfficeMax traded at this price, it was April of 2009. Once again, it appears likely that macroeconomic issues have pushed this high-beta stock down to a level that doesn't make a lot of sense on a micro level.
Disclosure: Author has a long position in shares of OMX