Toll Brothers (TOL) Meets Benjamin Grahams Criteria of Defensive Stock

Residential Construction firm Toll Brothers is one of the rare companies that fulfills most of Graham’s requirements for a defensive high-quality stock.

At Market Inference, we adhere to Benjamin Graham’s view that precise forecasting of a company’s prospects is highly uncertain. Investing with a wide margin of safety, determined on the basis of the company’s historical track record, offers far greater chances of positive investment results.

Toll Brothers trades at Attractive Multiples

Benjamin Graham's so-called “Graham number” is a popular metric determining the fair price of a stock in relation to its earnings and the book value of its equity. We calculate the Graham number as √(22.5 * 6 year average earnings per share (5.49) * 6 year average book value per share (61.948), which for Lennar gives us a fair price of $111.89.

In comparison, Toll Brothers’s market price is $73.53 per share.

Despite its impressive 82.0% performance over the last year, Toll Brothers still offers a margin of safety as its Graham number is more than -34.3% above current levels.

The analysis shouldn’t end here. The Graham number is just one of seven requirements for defensive stocks listed in Chapter 14 of The Intelligent Investor, which we will review below.

Impressive Revenues, Consistent Profitability, and a Growing Dividend Imply Value

Toll Brothers’s average sales revenue over the last 6 years has been $10.38 Billion, so by Graham’s standards the stock has sufficient revenues to make it worthy of investment. When published in 1972, Graham’s threshold was $100 million in average sales, which would be the equivalent of around a half million dollars today.

Ben Graham believed that a margin of safety could be obtained by investing only in companies with consistently positive retained earnings. Retained earnings represent the cumulative net earnings or (deficit) left to equity holders after dividends have been paid out. Toll Brothers had positive retained earnings from 2009 to 2022 with an average of $3.84 Billion over this period.

Ben Graham would also require a cumulative growth of Earnings Per Share of at least 30% over the last ten years.To determine Toll Brothers's EPS growth over time, we will average out its EPS for 2008, 2009, and 2010, which were $-1.88, $-4.68, and $-0.02 respectively. This gives us an average of $-2.19 for the period of 2008 to 2010. Next, we compare this value with the average EPS reported in 2020, 2021, and 2022, which were $1.55, $6.63, and $5.63, for an average of $4.60. Now we see that Toll Brothers's EPS growth was 310.05% during this period, which satisfies Ben Graham's requirement.

Toll Brothers’s Balance Sheet Meets Graham’s Criteria

It was also essential to Graham that the company’s current assets outweigh its current liabilities, and that its long term debt be inferior to the sum of its net current assets (current assets minus total liabilities). This is the aspect of the analysis that most companies fail, yet Toll Brothers passes comfortably, with an average current ratio of 2.6, and average debt to net current asset ratio of 0.4.


Graham is best known for the Graham number valuation method, and his net-net strategy of investing in a broad portfolio of companies that trade below their net current asset value. But these approaches are too narrow, and fail to capture the full scope of Graham’s statistical approach to stock picking.

Toll Brothers offers a rare combination of value, growth, and profitability. So it comes as no surprise that the company isn’t cheap enough to meet Graham’s definition of a net-net, and that it does not trade, on average, far below its Graham number. Rather, Toll Brothers is an interesting company because it meets Graham’s broader definition of quality.

2017-12-21 2018-12-20 2019-12-26 2020-12-22 2021-12-17 2022-12-19
Revenue (MM) $5,815 $7,143 $7,224 $7,078 $8,790 $10,276
Gross Margins 22.0% 22.0% 22.0% 20.0% 22.0% 24.0%
Operating Margins 11% 11% 9% 8% 12% 15%
Net Margins 9.0% 10.0% 8.0% 6.0% 9.0% 13.0%
Net Income (MM) $535 $748 $590 $447 $834 $1,286
Earnings Per Share $3.16 $4.85 $4.03 $3.4 $6.6 $10.9
EPS Growth n/a 53.48% -16.91% -15.63% 94.12% 65.15%
Diluted Shares (MM) 169 154 147 131 126 118
Free Cash Flow (MM) $994 $616 $445 $1,102 $1,290 $1,030
Capital Expenditures (MM) -$29 -$28 -$7 -$94 $14 -$43
Net Current Assets (MM) $3,866 $4,144 $4,479 $4,181 $4,431 $4,882
Long Term Debt (MM) $2,462 $2,861 $2,660 $2,662 $2,404 $1,995
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.