Graham-Style Analysis of Southwest Airlines (LUV)

Southwest Airlines is currently trading at $27.18 per share and has a Graham number of $16.76, which implies that it is 62.2% above its fair value. We calculate the Graham number as follows:

√(22.5 * 5 year average earnings per share * book value per share) = √(22.5 * 1.06 * 17.037) = 16.76

The Graham number is one of seven factors that Graham enumerates in Chapter 14 of The Intelligent Investor for determining whether a stock offers a margin of safety. Rather than use the Graham number by itself, its best to consider it alongside the following fundamental metrics:

Sales Revenue Should Be No Less Than $500 million

For Southwest Airlines, average sales revenue over the last 5 years has been $39.83 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 Southwest Airlines's current ratio by dividing its total current assets of $13.96 Billion by its total current liabilities of $12.26 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. Southwest Airlines’s current assets outweigh its current liabilities by a factor of 1.1 only.

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 Southwest Airlines’s debt ratio is -0.4, the company has much more liabilities than current assets because its long term debt to net current asset ratio is -0.4. We calculate Southwest Airlines’s debt to net current assets ratio by dividing its total long term of debt of $7.98 Billion by its current assets minus total liabilities of $36.49 Billion.

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

Southwest Airlines had good record of retained earnings with an average of $10.8 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 Southwest Airlines have received regular dividends since 2008. The company has returned an average dividend yield of 1.0% 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 Southwest Airlines Company's EPS growth over time, we will average out its EPS for 2007, 2008, and 2009, which were $0.84, $0.24, and $0.16 respectively. This gives us an average of $0.41 for the period of 2007 to 2009. Next, we compare this value with the average EPS reported in 2021, 2022, and 2023, which were $1.61, $0.87, and $0.76, for an average of $1.08. Now we see that Southwest Airlines Company's EPS growth was 163.41% during this period, which satisfies Ben Graham's requirement.

Based on the above analysis, we can conclude that Southwest Airlines satisfies some of the criteria Benjamin Graham used for identifying for an undervalued stock because it is trading above its fair value and has:

  • impressive sales revenue
  • just enough current assets to cover current liabilities, as shown by its current ratio of 1.14
  • much more liabilities than current assets because its long term debt to net current asset ratio is -0.4
  • good record of retained earnings
  • an acceptable record of dividends
  • declining EPS growth
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.