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Here's Why Citron Research Loves This Retail Stock

- By Ryan Vanzo

Citron Research is one of the most well-known short-sellers today. With deep-dive calls on controversial stocks like Tesla (TSLA), Aphria (APHA) and LYFT (LYFT), Citron has amassed an impressive reputation for quality research.

While most investors focus on Citron's short recommendations, the organization also has a variety of long positions with compelling stories. One of its most recent buy recommendations is $2.4 billion retailer RH (RH).

With shares trading at just $111 apiece, Citron sees more than 100% upside, setting its price target at $250 per share.

What does Citron like so much about a brick-and-mortar retailer? Is its $250 price target reasonable?

The numbers don't add up

In its report, Citron called RH "the most compelling story in retail." That doesn't stoke great deal of confidence considering the S&P Retail Index (XRT) rose just 8% over the past five years compared to a 55% rise for the S&P 500 Index (SPY).

Citron suggested RH isn't your traditional retailer, however.

Often, Wall Street analysts compare RH to companies like Ethan Allen (ETH), La-Z-Boy (LZB) and Williams Sonoma (WSM). It's a comparison that seems to make a lot of sense.

RH operates in the $109 billion home furnishing industry. Its stores sell furniture, lighting, textiles, bath accessories, general decor and more. Given its overlap with the companies listed above, RH trades roughly in-line with its peer group.




















But there's a catch. None of the companies listed above should be considered part of RH's peer group -- at least according to Citron. Looking at how quickly each company has grown its earnings over the last five years demonstrates Citron's point without even going into why RH is in a class of its own.










*Only 4 years of available data

Citron's main argument is that the market has missed RH's business transformation over recent years. And while the fundamentals continue to sizably outpace the rest of the home furnishing industry, the stock market has rewarded RH with the same depressed valuation as its supposed peer group.

If RH were in any other sector, it would be assigned a premium valuation to the market as a whole. Because it operates in the out-of-favor retail sector, investors and analysts refuse to assign it a proper valuation.

What has RH done differently to fuel its rapid earnings growth? Nearly everything.

This story has done a complete 180

Citron argued that the best way to understand RH's turnaround is through pictures, and they'd be right. Formally known as Restoration Hardware, here is what RH stores used to look like:

Take a look at some the company's supposed peers and you'll understand why RH is still lumped in with that group:

If you've been to an RH store recently, however, it would be unrecognizable. RH has been taking advantage of struggling retail property owners by forcing them to pay for major renovations. In 2019, RH was able to get landlords to cover 65% to 100% of the costs needed to revamp its aesthetic presence.

Here's what RH stores look like today:

Instead of merely being a retailer, RH has focused on making its locations an experience, similar to an Apple (AAPL) store. As Citron wrote in its report, "The store is no longer just a place to buy products -- it is the product." Visit any location near you and it would be hard to argue otherwise.

The transformation has been surprisingly asset-light. As mentioned, much of the costs are fronted by landlords. It's also been able to secure square footage rates around 50% lower than its former mall-based stores. It's actually been good business to be a thriving company in a troubled industry.

How much are shares really worth?

Before pegging a value on shares, it's important to note that the company's CEO, Gary Friedman, is incredibly incentivized to improve the valuation quickly. Based on fully diluted shares, he owns around a quarter of the company.

"I'm the biggest shareholder in the company. I have the most to gain and I have the most to lose here. This is like 97% of my net worth. This is not a casual investment." -- RH CEO, Gary Friedman.

Citron ultimately thinks RH will be bought out given it would finally garner the valuation it deserves. Trading at the same level as La-Z-Boy and Ethan Allen would likely be absurd to a private equity shop. Still, there's room for value even without an outright acquisition.

This year, RH anticipates earnings per share around $8.41 to $9.08. Even using the bottom end of that range, shares trade at just 13.3x forward earnings. The S&P 500 trades at a forward price-earnings ratio of 17.5.

Using a 10% discount rate and a terminal growth rate of just 3%, RH would need to grow earnings by just 3.66% annually to justify its current valuation.

Over the next five years, the analyst consensus expects RH to grow profits by 25.5% annually. That disparity leaves a hefty margin of safety.

Now trading at a discounted valuation despite a rosy long-term forecast, RH stock looks like a mispriced bargain.

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This article first appeared on GuruFocus.