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 UnitedHealth gives us a fair price of $208.12. In comparison, the stock’s market price is $494.81 per share. Therefore, UnitedHealth’s market price exceeds the upper bound that a prudent investor would pay for its shares by 137.8%.
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 UnitedHealth:
Sales Revenue Should Be No Less Than $500 million
For UnitedHealth, average sales revenue over the last 6 years has been $355.56 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 UnitedHealth's current ratio by dividing its total current assets of $69.07 Billion by its total current liabilities of $89.24 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. UnitedHealth’s current liabilities are actually greater than its current assets, since its current ratio is only 0.8.
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 UnitedHealth’s debt ratio is -0.6, the company has much more liabilities than current assets. We calculate UnitedHealth’s debt to net current assets ratio by dividing its total long term of debt of $54.51 Billion by its current assets minus total liabilities of $159.36 Billion.
The Stock Should Have a Positive Level of Retained Earnings Over Several Years
UnitedHealth had positive retained earnings from 2008 to 2022 with an average of $44.76 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
Shareholders of UnitedHealth have received regular dividends since 2009. The company has returned an average dividend yield of 1.4% over the last five years.
A Minimum Increase of at Least One-third in Earnings per Share (EPS) Over the Past 10 Years
To determine UnitedHealth's EPS growth over time, we will average out its EPS for 2007, 2008, and 2009, which were $3.42, $2.40, and $3.24 respectively. This gives us an average of $3.02 for the period of 2007 to 2009. Next, we compare this value with the average EPS reported in 2020, 2021, and 2022, which were $16.03, $18.08, and $21.18, for an average of $18.43. Now we see that UnitedHealth's EPS growth was 510.26% during this period, which satisfies Ben Graham's requirement.
It may be trading far above its fair value, but UnitedHealth actually satisfies some of the criteria Benjamin Graham used for identifying for an undervalued stock because it has:
- impressive sales revenue
- not enough current assets to cover current liabilities
- much more liabilities than current assets
- positive retained earnings from 2008 to 2022
- an acceptable record of dividends
- EPS growth in excess of Graham's requirements