Is Sylvamo Stock Significantly Undervalued?

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Written By Dean McHugh

Sylvamo Corporation operates as a leading global producer of uncoated paper used for various applications including office printing, commercial printing, and advertising.

Formed from a spin-off from International Paper in 2021, Sylvamo focuses on providing high-quality paper products while maintaining a strong commitment to sustainability and efficient resource management.

Recent Performance and Valuation

Credits: DepositPhotos

Following a period of robust performance, Sylvamo’s stock has appreciated by 45%, surpassing previous valuation targets. This growth is attributed to several positive financial and operational indicators observed since Q3 FY 2023.

Back in Q3 FY 2023, the materials sector, including Sylvamo, was highlighted as particularly attractive due to its projected earnings growth and relatively low Index weighting. At that time, Sylvamo exhibited promising economic traits, trading at a modest 8x earnings with a trailing return on equity (ROE) of 53%.

This favorable financial positioning indicated a potential for substantial returns, supported by the company’s ability to consistently convert operating cash flow to free cash flow without being hindered by its financial structure.

Fast forward to the present day, despite the stock’s significant price increase, the forward price-to-earnings (P/E) multiple has only increased to 10x. This is despite Sylvamo growing its operating and free cash flow by nearly 19% year over year, even with a 750 basis points increase in capital expenditures.

Performance Analysis

In Q1 FY 2024, Sylvamo reported net sales of $905 million with a pre-tax income of $60 million. These figures represented a decrease from $941 million in revenue and $141 million in pre-tax income from Q1 2023, primarily due to reduced volumes and softer demand in Latin America.

However, economic downtime showed significant improvement, with a reduction of 80% year over year, indicating potential for future earnings growth.

Adjusted EBITDA for Q1 FY 2024 was $118 million, though free cash flow was negative at $33 million. Despite these figures, the company’s pre-tax income aligned with its outlook of $100-125 million.

A major positive indicator from the earnings call was management’s commitment to investing in high-return projects aimed at strengthening the business and increasing cash flow.

The CEO highlighted ongoing and planned projects totaling approximately $270 million, which are expected to generate returns well above the cost of capital.

Since its spin-off, Sylvamo has reduced its gross debt by around 40%, maintaining a leverage ratio (net debt/adj. EBITDA) of 1.5x, thereby improving its financial health and operational stability.

Industry Standing

Sylvamo operates in a commodity-like industry where production efficiencies typically drive returns on capital. The company maintains in-line gross margins, indicating it does not sell its offerings below industry standards. Notably, Sylvamo boasts lower operating costs as a percentage of sales compared to peers, with an operating margin of 9.6% and free cash flow margins of 5.3% over the trailing 12 months.

Consequently, the company’s returns on invested capital are significantly higher than the industry average, at 12% versus 3.15% respectively.

Stock Repurchase and Shareholder Value

One significant driver of Sylvamo’s stock performance has been its share repurchase program. In Q1 2024, the company repurchased 20 million shares and returned $12 million to shareholders via dividends. This buyback strategy has effectively increased shareholder value by reducing the number of outstanding shares, thus enhancing earnings per share.

Valuation and Investment Outlook

Despite the 45% increase in share price, Sylvamo’s stock remains attractively valued. The stock currently trades at 10.4x trailing non-GAAP earnings, a modest increase in the P/E multiple since the previous analysis.

This valuation remains compelling, considering the company’s robust cash flow generation, high returns on invested capital, and efficient operational model.

In terms of economic profitability, Sylvamo has consistently produced returns above the long-term market average of 12%. This indicates strong economic earnings and suggests that the company is creating significant value for its shareholders.


Credits: DepositPhotos

Sylvamo remains a strong candidate for investors seeking high-quality assets in the basic materials sector. The company’s ability to generate substantial free cash flow, maintain high returns on capital, and operate with a light asset model positions it well for continued growth.

With its solid financial performance and strategic investments, Sylvamo is well-positioned for sustained success in the future.



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