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Margin of Safety Investing
Margin of Safety Investing

Conagra stock review: Food you love, stock you don’t!

December 17, 2010 | About:

ConAgra is a diversified player in the packaged food industry. Its portfolio includes such well-known brands sold in groceries. ConAgra also sells to restaurants and food service establishments and is the largest supplier of French fries in the U.S. and Asia Pacific food service channel.

I added CAG to my investment idea list after a review of stocks mentioned in Morningstars’ dividend newsletter. Over the last month, CAG has been trading between $22-$23

Please refer to the stock review explained post if you have questions on what I look for in this analysis. Click on this Surfmark if you want to see the source data for this stock review

1- Business Performance Risk (-) and intrinsic stock returns (-)

Metric Status
FCF / Sales FCF / Sales has been varying quite a bit over the last ten years, ranging from -3% to 8%. It is now at 6.9% but was negative in fiscal years 2008 and 2009.
ROE Return on equity is now at 14.6, at the lower end of recent performance and below the 5-year average of 16.4%.
ROA Return on assets is currently at 6.2%, in line with the 5 year average of 6.5%.
Revenue Growth Over time, CAG has been decreasing in size with an average growth over the last 5 years of -3.7%. I am not sure what has been driving this trend as looking at CAG's cash flow statement does not seem to indicate that the company has been selling assets/businesses which could explain the negative growth.

However, EPS has been growing at about 5.7% on average over the last 5 years despite the negative growth in earnings.
Cash distribution to shareholders Dividend: CAG is paying a 3.8% dividend yield on a payout of ~50%.

Stock repurchases: Over the last 5 years, CAG has bought back about 15% of its shares
I am disappointed in Conagra’s business performance. I was expecting CAG to have somewhat of a moat, but its low FCF/sales and return metrics seem to indicate that the business is not able to weather well competition and market conditions with years of negative FCF and overall declining sales.

In terms of intrinsic stock returns, an investor could expect the following:

- 3.8% dividend on 50% earnings payout

- 3% growth, better than recent performance, using 20% of earnings on a 15% ROE

- 2.2% share buybacks, using the 30% earnings remaining on the company’s current 7.4% earnings yield

Hence overall, CAG’s intrinsic stock returns could be in the 9% range, below my personal threshold.

2- Balance Sheet Risk (+)

Metric Status
LT Debt / Equity While CAG's currently carries some debt, the level does not seem unreasonable, with a Debt/Equity ratio of 0.7x currently
Current Ratio CAG's current ratio seems to be appropriate at 1.9x, above what the company has been targeting before 2008.
CAG’s balance sheet appears to be reasonably conservative and should not represent a major risk for an investor in the company.

3- Valuation Risk (+)

Metric Status
Cash Return 6.7%
Price to earnings ratio CAG's P/E is currently at 13.5x, lower than the S&P 500 and the stocks 5-year average of 17.2x
Current valuation levels appear reasonable and could even leave an investor with an appropriate margin of safety, with both earnings and cash valuation being at less than 15x.


CAG’s business performance is lower than what I expected and contradicts my starting assumption that CAG has an economic moat. While I don’ t think that the business is terrible, I am concerned by lower ROIC/ROA than I usually am comfortable with and the constant decrease in revenue over time. In addition, CAG does not seem positioned to deliver satisfactory intrinsic returns and while valuation could be attractive it is not enough to attract me to CAG as a long term investment candidate for my portfolio. I will pass and not perform a stock analysis of CAG.

Have you looked at CAG recently? What was your conclusion?

You can find some investment ideas, more one-page “stock reviews” as well as more in-depth “stock analysis”, including valuation and copies of my financial model on my investment research blog: Margin of Safety Investing.

Many happy returns!



Rating: 3.4/5 (8 votes)


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