Even in the face of the downturn, the company has generated $636 million in cash from operations over the last 12 months. The pressure is expected to continue into the third quarter but should start to ease next year, if only because the comparisons will be easier. It used up nearly $450 million on capital expenditures and is expected to continue spending about $500 million annually - mostly on store openings and remodels. I estimate that of that, about $200 million is going to new stores and the rest is required maintenance. Since the new stores are presumably expected to boost future cash flows, the “no-growth” free cash flow stands at about $325 million per year, a 5.8% free cash flow yield on the current enterprise value. It doesn’t take much growth from there to get to an enticing total return.
What’s more, if this worst-case scenario does unfold the company has shown that it has the discipline to act on it. Office Depot has already reduced planned store openings to 100 this year (from an initial plan of 150) and 125-150 next year (from initial plans of 200).
Office Depot has also been buying back shares (although in retrospect they were paying too much for them.) The share count is down nearly 6% from one year ago, and further buybacks will help soften the EPS blow during the downturn as well as provide leverage to the recovery.
All that said, an investment in Office Depot will require patience and possibly a strong stomach, as things are likely to get worse before they get better.