The story of a company that’s trying to turn around usually takes on a familiar tone. Tell me if this sounds familiar, “(we are taking) actions to enhance our balance sheet and capital allocation flexibility and exiting some non-strategic businesses.” Let me translate, we don’t have enough cash flow, we need to cut our debt to get out of trouble, and selling some of our businesses is the only option we have. The earlier quote is from the CEO of Pitney Bowes Inc. (NYSE:PBI) Marc Lautenbach, and unfortunately, the company’s business keeps getting worse.
What Could Have Been
Ironically, Pitney Bowes Inc. (NYSE:PBI) competes with several companies that are trying to write their own turnaround stories. For instance, the printing and data management capabilities puts Pitney Bowes in competition with Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ), Xerox Corporation (NYSE:XRX), and Siemens AG (ADR) (NYSE:SI).
What’s interesting is, Pitney Bowes Inc. (NYSE:PBI) and their peers are all being pushed to the limit by some of the same trends. The rise of tablets and smartphones is changing the landscape. Businesses and individuals used to use desktop computers and keep paper records of everything. However, with e-mail, tablets, and smartphones, paper records are going by the wayside as fast as the traditional desktop.
In addition, businesses and individuals are moving away from physical mail and toward social networking and other methods of communication. When companies begin offering benefits from going paperless, they are essentially taking a shot directly at Pitney Bowes Inc. (NYSE:PBI) and its troubled peers.
Before And After
The biggest difference between Pitney Bowes Inc. (NYSE:PBI) today versus prior to their dividend cut is the stock’s potential return has changed dramatically. About a year ago, Pitney Bowes paid a yield of more than 10%, and analysts expected earnings growth of about 4% to 6%. With a double-digit yield and low single-digit earnings growth, the stock looked extremely cheap.
Things have changed over the last 12 months. Pitney Bowes Inc. (NYSE:PBI) now yields 5.4%, but what is worse is now analysts expect earnings to contract by 6%. This means all things being equal, Pitney Bowes offers investors a total expected return of negative 0.60%. Everyone knows that Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ) has problems of its own. However, the company pays a yield of 2.3%, and analysts expect earnings to stay flat over the next few years. Even a 2.3% return is better than a negative return.
Xerox Corporation (NYSE:XRX) offers a slightly better option, with a yield of about 2.3%, but with an expected growth rate of about 6.6%. Even better still is Siemens AG (ADR) (NYSE:SI) pays a higher yield of 2.7% and earnings growth in the double-digits. In short, on a sheer yield and growth basis, Pitney Bowes Inc. (NYSE:PBI) is a worse value than any of their peers.
Failing to Deliver
Everyone pretty much knows that Pitney Bowes Inc. (NYSE:PBI) is struggling with lower mail volumes. In the past, I could accept this risk as long as they could keep their free cash flow generation intact. However, with every passing quarter, Pitney Bowes is putting investors in a more and more difficult situation.