Planet Fitness (NYSE:PLNT) has worked itself into better shape over the last two years. The personal fitness chain has fueled PLNT stock to nearly quadruple in that time and it continues to achieve new 52-week highs.
Given its performance rate, investors have already caught on to this growth story. However, with the pace of profit growth and the strength of its business model, new Planet Fitness stock highs will likely continue.
PLNT Stock Benefits from a No-frills Business Model
In a world where investors tend to focus on the latest tech trends or trade wars, they can easily forget an equity like PLNT stock. However, even in the consumer cyclical space, consumers and growth investors can find a lot to like.
This franchisor of fitness centers boasts more than 12.5 million members who sweat it at more than 1,700 locations. Management wants that number to grow to over 4,000 centers over the next few years. It operates in 47 U.S. states as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, Panama, and the Dominican Republic.
Planet Fitness has attracted its customer base with a no-frills approach, marketing itself as the gym for casual or novice users, offering them a “Judgement Free Zone.” Membership costs only $10 per month. Instead of offering classes and other frills, Planet Fitness provides a basic selection of machines and little else.
Consumer Cyclical that Performs Like a Tech
Given profit increases, PLNT should resonate with investors as well as it does with customers. Analysts forecast earnings growth of 26.2% this year and 22.1% in 2020. Also, this is nothing new as profits grew by an average of 33.45% per year over the last five years. Also, PLNT stock is the only play in the fitness space to trade on the major exchanges. Although some analysts consider it part of the “leisure” industry, I don’t think Planet Fitness compares well to a Carnival (NYSE:CCL) or a Disney (NYSE:DIS).
This could explain why PLNT stock has behaved like some tech equities. Since its August 2015 IPO, it has consistently supported an elevated price-to-earnings (PE) ratio, currently at 71.5x. PLNT remained mostly range-bound for its first 18 months. However, about two years ago, it began a steady ascent. Since March 2017, the stock has risen from the $19 per share range to its current 52-week high of around $71 per share.
Still, with the stock trading at nearly quadruple its levels two years ago, its valuation remains high. PLNT stock trades at a forward PE of around 38x. It also supports a price-to-sales ratio of around 12.5.
PLNT Stock Faces One Significant Threat
That elevated current multiple will probably put off some value investors. However, the only thing I see interrupting this move higher is a downturn. By downturn, I do not mean an economic downturn. Considering the low membership price, sales would likely increase in the event of a recession. It is a selloff in stocks that could create a near-term worry.
Still, even such a slump would likely not last long. Like most other equities, Planet Fitness stock fell during the market selloff in late September and early October of last year. However, PLNT fell by a comparatively modest 14%. It also recovered those losses by early November, one of the few stocks to bounce back so quickly. Such a fast recovery speaks well to the fitness of PLNT and decreases the likelihood of a significant drop in the stock price anytime soon.
Bottom Line on PLNT Stock
Despite a massive move higher in recent years, PLNT stock should continue to rise. Millions of consumers have taken to Planet Fitness’s business model, which emphasizes the needed equipment and little else at a low cost.
Investors have caught on and bid PLNT stock to a high multiple. However, profit growth should top 20% per year for the foreseeable future. More importantly, even when it fell by 14% last fall, it only took a month for PLNT to recover. Considering that reaction, investors will more likely equate Planet Fitness with portfolio fitness despite its valuation.
As of this writing, Will Healy did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned stocks. You can follow Will on Twitter at @HealyWriting.
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