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Stock Analysis of Ross Stores

Ross Stores, Inc. (ROST), together with its subsidiaries, operates off-price retail apparel and home fashion stores under the Ross Dress for Less and dds DISCOUNTS brand names in the United States. It primarily offers apparel, accessories, footwear, and home fashions. Ross Stores is a dividend achiever, which has raised dividends for 21 years in a row.

The most recent dividend increase was in February 2015, when the Board of Directors approved a 17.50% increase in the quarterly dividend to 23.50 cents/share.

The company’s largest competitors include TJ Companies (TJX), Kohl’s (KSS) and Macy’s (M).

Over the past decade this dividend growth stock has delivered an annualized total return of 21.90% to its shareholders. Future returns will be dependent on growth in earnings and starting dividend yields obtained by shareholders.

The company has managed to deliver a 22.80% average increase in annual EPS over the past decade. Ross Stores is expected to earn $4.84 per share in 2015 and $5.41 per share in 2016. In comparison, the company earned $4.42/share in 2014.

Earnings per share have also been aided by share buybacks. The number of shares outstanding has decreased from 293 million in 2005 to 209 million by 2015. I like the fact that management is focused on delivering excess cashflow and then sharing that cashflow with shareholders in the form of higher dividends and share buybacks. While I would prefer special dividends to share repurchases, I will take what I can.

The annual dividend payment has increased by 25% per year over the past decade, which is much higher than the growth in EPS. Future growth in dividends will likely exceed growth in earnings per share given that the payout ratio has room for expansion.

A 25% growth in distributions translates into the dividend payment doubling almost every three years on average. If we check the dividend history, going as far back as 1995, we could see that Ross Stores has indeed managed to double dividends almost every three years on average.

In the past decade, the dividend payout ratio has remained steady, and it has only increased slightly to 18% in 2015. A lower payout is always a plus, since it leaves room for consistent dividend growth minimizing the impact of short-term fluctuations in earnings.

Ross Stores has also managed to grow its high return on equity from 24.90% in 2006 to 43.20% in 2015. I generally like seeing a high return on equity, which is also relatively stable or rising over time.

Currently, Ross Stores is overvalued at 21.40 times forward earnings and yields 0.90%. Despite the fact that I typically require a higher initial yield, I like the growth story and the growth prospects behind this company. I would consider initiating a small position in the stock on dips below $96/share.

Full Disclosure: None

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