What’s Richard Band’s “Buy Amazon for $105 a Share” Idea?

Richard Band is one of the pioneers of the investment newsletter industry, his Profitable Investing letter has been around for more than 30 years, but we don’t cover his teaser picks very often — probably partly because the letter doesn’t get aggressively promoted very often by his publishers.

But they’ve sensed and opportunity this week, it seems — with so much coverage of Amazon (AMZN) as the stock price finally touched $1,000 a share yesterday (albeit briefly), Investorplace is out with a pitch for Band’s Profitable Investing that’s headlined “How to Buy Amazon for $105.”

Who wouldn’t want that, right?

Oh, to have a time machine.

So what is it that they’re actually teasing? Here’s a taste:

“Window of Opportunity Closes at Midnight

“How to Buy Amazon for $105 and Bank a Rich 3% Dividend Along the Way

“You Have 24 Hours”

Well, I’m afraid the window of opportunity may have closed, but I’m also not at all sure what he means by a “Window of Opportunity” or why on earth we’d have just 24 hours.

Unless, of course, he’s just pushing us to subscribe quickly. Nah, that wouldn’t happen… right?

Well, I’m afraid so — one absolutely critical part of any newsletter ad is the “subscribe now” rationale — a copywriter has to have some reason to rush you along to the bit where you type in your credit card number, otherwise the risk is that you’ll take your time, think it over, maybe go talk to your wife or husband about it, or visit your friends over at Stock Gumshoe to see what they think… and as each minute passes, the probability of getting those coveted credit card numbers out of you drops just a bit lower.

Here’s the part that says “hurry” but doesn’t really give a reason for the rush, other than the fact that the company will release second quarter earnings at some point:

“Back Up the Truck Now

“Once word gets out that this company is set to rise along with Amazon’s explosive growth, you’re going to see its shares begin to zoom.

“That’s why I’m telling my readers, and now you too, to back up the truck before the company declares 2nd quarter earnings.

“If you do, you’ll be smiling all the way to the bank over the next five years as its sales and profits rise alongside Amazon’s.

“Don’t delay!

“Long term, a $5,000 investment here could mushroom into $20,000 or more —— all while paying you 3% a year to grow your wealth!”

If this company is on a standard quarterly schedule, which most of them are, then their second quarter won’t even be completed for another month, and the earnings report would presumably be at least a month after that.

So take a deep breath, relax, and let’s see what stock he’s talking about. Then you can decide for yourself whether you want to hurry, or even whether you want to subscribe to his newsletter.

Some of you will have guessed this one already, I’m sure, but don’t spoil it for the rest of the class… what are our clues, beyond that $105 share price and the 3% dividend?

“… this Amazon supply chain partner will let you buy into the next phase of the company’s historic rise for just $105 a share….

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“… this supply logistics company touches, directs, and routes 30% of the packages Amazon sends out….

“The result has helped this company net over $3.4 billion a year while paying investors a rich 3% dividend….

“… the company’s supply chain logistics operation doesn’t just partner with Amazon—it partners with virtually every major online retailer as well, from Apple to Wal-Mart to Staples and beyond.”

OK, now there are a LOT of hands up out there in the class… most of you have an answer. Shall we throw another clue or two on the pile so the rest can catch up? Here goes…

“State Street, BlackRock, and FMR LLC, own, together, $35 billion worth of stock….

“In the past 30 days, 15 top analysts have revised their expectations upward for both 2017 and 2018.

“It’s no wonder.

“The company just reported another positive earnings surprise as well as four consecutive quarters of growth.”

So, as you’ve probably gathered by now, this is good ol’ United Parcel Service (UPS). UPS is a huge global shipping company that has been expanding overseas for decades but is best known for its brown trucks that represent the powerful parcel delivery network in the US.

And it’s no surprise that UPS and their biggest competitor, FedEx (FDX), are beneficiaries of the ecommerce revolution — which has actually hurt margins at some times. Both companies have needed to invest in expansion to handle greater package volume, and they’re also facing some margin squeeze because of the increasing dominance of a few brands, particularly Amazon, in ecommerce — Amazon needs UPS and FedEx, but it also has a lot of leverage to play those companies off each other, and to take on some of its own logistics and delivery work.

Those weaker margins helped to bring the stock down after the last earnings report, so the shares are considerably off their highs right now (they were near $120 before their earnings disappointment at the end of January and have mostly been in the $104-107 since, the late April earnings report didn’t really cause investors to change their minds about the stock). And I guess they did technically report “another” earnings surprise last quarter, they beat expectations by about 2% in the March quarterly report… but the previous beat would have been a year or more ago, the earnings fell short of expectations in the December quarter and analysts have generally been quite close to the target in the few quarters before that (no surprise there, the company gives pretty clear earnings guidance and the analysts pretty reliably line up right at the midpoint of that guidance).

The company is saying all the right things about the investments in strengthening their network paying off in the future, and about some leverage returning to the shares over the next year or so as those investments help to improve margins, which has led analyst estimates to increase their expectations for the stock a bit over the past few months… thought he increases have not been particularly dramatic. The current expectation is that UPS will earn $5.95 per share this year, which would only be 3.5% growth over last year’s $5.75, but then analysts think they’ll post $6.44 in earnings in 2018 (for a more respectable 8% earnings growth).

That’s still not particularly dramatic or overwhelming, I’m afraid — not for a stock with a forward PE of 16. That gives you a PEG ratio (price/earnings/growth) of over 2, and that usually means you’re paying a pretty rich price relative to the growth you’re going to get.

Which probably shouldn’t be all that surprising — UPS is a high yielding brand-name stock, with a 3% dividend and a pretty strong record of dividend growth (they’ve raised the dividend every year since their 1999 IPO, other than 2009 when they kept it flat), and most such stocks are pretty expensive right now. So really, the calculus for most investors is probably whether or not you think UPS’s unique asset, their global logistics and delivery network, is worth a premium price… and whether you think the relatively steady performance of the past 15 years is worth paying for.

UPS shares have beaten the market handily since the 2008 crash, and over the past five years, but over the longer term they’ve failed to consistently be any better than the market since their IPO. This year, with the market dominated by those few mega tech stocks at the top and UPS reporting a weak fourth quarter to end 2016, the stock has lagged pretty far behind the benchmark.

The “hurry hurry hurry” fervor doesn’t really ring true for UPS or similar kinds of stocks, frankly — and you’d probably be much happier with a fairly conservative pundit like Richard Band if you went in with much lower expectations, but that doesn’t mean it’s a lousy stock. To give you some perspective, Richard Band also touted Nestle (NSRGY) back in the Fall of 2011 as the “safest stock in the world” and “poised for a 30% pop” because “Wal-Mart goes out of business without this company” … and Nestle was and is a fine dividend-paying “blue chip” investment to consider, but it took a year and a half for that 30% “pop” to gradually materialize, and it happened right in line with the performance of the overall market.

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