How Can We Analyze Fortive (FTV) 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 Fortive gives us a fair price of $36.39. In comparison, the stock’s market price is $75.86 per share. Therefore, Fortive’s market price exceeds the upper bound that a prudent investor would pay for its shares by 108.5%.

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 Fortive:

Sales Revenue Should Be No Less Than $500 million

For Fortive, average sales revenue over the last 6 years has been $5.87 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 Fortive's current ratio by dividing its total current assets of $2.48 Billion by its total current liabilities of $2.73 Billion. 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. Fortive’s current liabilities are actually greater than its current assets, since its current ratio is only 0.9.

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 Fortive’s debt ratio is -0.6, the company has much more liabilities than current assets. We calculate Fortive’s debt to net current assets ratio by dividing its total long term of debt of $2.25 Billion by its current assets minus total liabilities of $6.2 Billion.

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

Fortive had positive retained earnings from 2015 to 2022 with an average of $3.47 Billion. 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

Fortive has offered a regular dividend since at least 2016. The company has returned an average dividend yield of 0.4% over the last five years.

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

With only 9 years of available data, the Fortive cannot meet Graham's requirement of 30% growth over a 10 year period. Growth was disappointing during this period too. The average EPS during 2014 and 2015 was $2.53 based on the reported values of $2.56 and $2.50. Looking to the years 2021 and 2022, we see reported values of $0.44 and $2.10, which averages out to $1.27. This tells us that during this period Fortive's earnings per share shrank by -49.8%.

Fortive 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
  • not enough current assets to cover current liabilities
  • much more liabilities than current assets
  • positive retained earnings from 2015 to 2022
  • 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.