- Wal-Mart has lost one-third of its value this year while Amazon.Com has more than doubled its.
- Wal-Mart’s pay raise has increased spending, and employment, among lower-income workers
- Wal-Mart has $15 billion in operating cash flow per quarter to chase Amazon technology.
During 2015 the Bentonville, AR based retailer has lost nearly one-third of its value, 31.5% of it. This has taken its market cap from $246 billion down to $188 billion. Meanwhile Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), worth less than $150 billion at the start of the year, has blown by it, rising by 112% to $309 billion.
This despite the fact that Wal-Mart brings in more revenue each quarter, $120 billion most recently, than Amazon will this year, even by the most optimistic estimates. This is also despite the fact that Wal-Mart is the second-largest e-commerce company, and that its Wal-Mart Labs has brought forward many technology innovations including an open source system called OneOps, designed to halt cloud lock-in, like that found by users of Amazon Web Services.
What really hacked-off analysts about Wal-Mart was CEO Doug McMillon’s announcement last month that it will double-down on those tech investments and spurn profit for the next two years, something Amazon did for a decade. "Wal-Mart thinks it is Amazon and it is totally not" ran one headline.
No, Wal-Mart is not Amazon. But it’s not IBM either.
- Wal-Mart has plenty of cash flow with which to chase Amazon, $15 billion of operating cash flow last quarter alone, more than double what Amazon generates.
- Wal-Mart has already begun a transition toward smaller stores, called Neighborhood Markets, to tap urban markets it previously did not reach.
- Wal-Mart has over 6,200 stores worldwide, which if activated as delivery points could give Amazon a run for its money at low cost.
Perhaps more important is McMillon’s decision, announced in February, to start raising line workers’ pay. Given that Wal-Mart has 1.4 million employees in the U.S., and its move was countered by other large retail employers, this has produced a powerful stimulus to the U.S. economy, with many of the 268,000 private sector workers hired last month brought in specifically to serve the needs of low-wage earners, who now have more money in their pockets.
Right now Wal-Mart is dirt cheap. It sells at less than 42% of its annual sales, which is far less than its rivals. The company has a very low debt-to-assets ratio of 25%, which is not going to change. It has a plan, and the assets to act on it. And it has economic change in its favor – minimum-wage workers don’t buy from Amazon.com or even Costco (NASDAQ:COST) – they buy from Dollar General (NYSE:DG) and Wal-Mart.
What this tells me is that Wal-Mart could offer a very present surprise in its Christmas quarter, attracting new buyers of the stock, and could then be on its way to a very profitable transition.