How Can We Analyze SPX (SPXC) Like Ben Graham?

Many investors turn to Benjamin Graham's so-called “Graham number” to calculate the fair price of a stock. The Graham number is √(22.5 * 5 year average earnings per share * book value per share), which for SPX gives us a fair price of $44.1. In comparison, the stock’s market price is $80.64 per share. Therefore, SPX’s market price exceeds the upper bound that a prudent investor would pay for its shares by 82.9%.

The Graham number is often used in isolation, but in fact it is only one part of a check list for choosing defensive stocks that he laid out in Chapter 14 of The Intelligent Investor. The analysis requires us to look at the following fundamentals of SPX:

Sales Revenue Should Be No Less Than $500 million

For SPX, average sales revenue over the last 4 years has been $1.44 Billion, so in the context of the Graham analysis the stock has impressive sales revenue. Originally the threshold was $100 million, but since the book was published in the 1970s it's necessary to adjust the figure for inflation.

Current Assets Should Be at Least Twice Current Liabilities

We calculate SPX's current ratio by dividing its total current assets of $721.1 Million by its total current liabilities of $333.8 Million. Current assets refer to company assets that can be transferred into cash within one year, such as accounts receivable, inventory, and liquid financial instruments. Current liabilities, on the other hand, refer to those that will come due within one year. In SPX’s case, current assets outweigh current liabilities by a factor of 2.2.

The Company’s Long-term Debt Should Not Exceed its Net Current Assets

This means that its ratio of debt to net current assets should be 1 or less. Since SPX’s debt ratio is -1.9, the company has much more liabilities than current assets. We calculate SPX’s debt to net current assets ratio by dividing its total long term of debt of $243.0 Million by its current assets minus total liabilities of $851.7 Million.

The Stock Should Have a Positive Level of Retained Earnings Over Several Years

SPX had negative retained earnings in 2019, 2020, and 2021 with an average of $922.53 Million. Retained earnings are the sum of the current and previous reporting periods' net asset amounts, minus all dividend payments. It's a similar metric to free cash flow, with the difference that retained earnings are accounted for on an accrual basis.

There Should Be a Record of Uninterrupted Dividend Payments Over the Last 20 Years

We have no record of SPX offering a regular dividend within the last twenty years.

A Minimum Increase of at Least One-third in Earnings per Share (EPS) Over the Past 10 Years

We are going to compare SPX's earnings per share averages from the two 'bookends' of the 16 year period for which we have data. The first bookend comprises the years 2007, 2008, and 2009, whose EPS values of $5.21, $4.56, and $0.64 average out to $3.47. Next we look at the years 2020, 2021, and 2022, whose values of $0.56, $0.14, and $0.00 average out to $0.23. The growth rate between the two averages does not meet Graham's standard since it is -93.37%.

SPX does not have the profile of a defensive stock according to Benjamin Graham's criteria because in addition to trading far above its fair value, it has:

  • impressive sales revenue
  • an excellent current ratio
  • much more liabilities than current assets
  • negative retained earnings in 2019, 2020, and 2021
  • an acceptable record of dividends
  • decreasing earnings per share
The above analysis is intended for educational purposes only and was performed on the basis of publicly available data. It is not to be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell any security. Any buy, sell, or other recommendations mentioned in the article are direct quotations of consensus recommendations from the analysts covering the stock, and do not represent the opinions of Market Inference or its writers. Past performance, accounting data, and inferences about market position and corporate valuation are not reliable indicators of future price movements. Market Inference does not provide financial advice. Investors should conduct their own review and analysis of any company of interest before making an investment decision.