AutoZone (AZO) Faces Cybersecurity Breach: Is it Time to Sell?

AutoZone, Inc. (AZO), a leading retailer and distributor of automotive replacement parts and accessories in the United States, announced that it was hacked by a ransomware gang in May this year. Bleeping Computer reported that AZO’s data stores were breached, with the personal information of approximately 185,000 customers leaked.

The Clop ransomware gang took responsibility for this cyberattack, with hackers uncovering susceptibilities in the file transfer application MOVEit.

Several other affected organizations include the Louisiana Department of Motor Vehicles, the State of Maine, British Airways, and the New York City public school system. As per the report, the total financial damage totaled around $12 billion, with estimates indicating that at least 62 million people were affected by this data leak.

The data leaked by cybercriminals is around 1.1GB in size, containing employee names, email addresses, tax information, parts supply details, payroll documents, Oracle database files, production and sales information, data about stores, and more. No customer data appears in the leaked files, Bleeping Computer noted.

AutoZone informed the U.S. authorities last week about this data breach. It took the auto company nearly three months to determine what data was stolen from its systems and who had been impacted and required to be notified.

“AutoZone became aware that an unauthorized third party exploited a vulnerability associated with MOVEit and exfiltrated certain data from an AutoZone system that supports the MOVEit application,” read the letter from AZO. The company further added that it is “not aware” of any instances where a customer's personal information was used to conduct fraud.

However, AutoZone will provide its affected clients with a year of free credit monitoring software. This will allow them to track potential fraud and suspicious activities related to their identity and credit.

Despite this news, AZO’s shares have gained more than 6% over the past month and nearly 5% over the past six months.

Now, let’s discuss several factors that could influence AZO’s performance in the near term:

Growing Need for Auto Parts

The global auto parts market is expected to reach $1.10 trillion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 6.8%. One of the primary factors driving the auto parts market is the increasing demand for auto vehicles worldwide. Global motor vehicle production has been rising steadily, with around 85 million vehicles produced in 2022, up nearly 6% from 2021.

The demand for auto parts has increased in tandem with this production boom. Further, the growing shift toward electric and hybrid vehicles and the manufacturing of environmentally friendly vehicle parts because of an enhanced focus on sustainability and environmental issues are propelling the market’s expansion.

Additionally, the significant surge in e-commerce platforms has a major impact on auto parts distribution and sales, providing more access for customers. Also, the rising popularity of automotive customization and the introduction of advanced technologies, such as navigation systems, infotainment systems, and advanced driver assistance systems, will boost the market’s growth.

Therefore, the growing demand for auto parts and accessories is a primary tailwind for AZO stock.

Robust Financials

For the fourth quarter that ended August 26, 2023, AZO reported net sales of $5.69 billion, beating analysts’ estimate of $5.61 billion. This compared to net sales of $5.25 billion in the same quarter of 2022. Its gross profit grew 8.8% from the year-ago value to $3 billion.

The auto parts operating profit (EBIT) came in at $1.22 billion, an increase of 10.8% from the prior year’s quarter. Its net income rose 6.8% year-over-year to $864.84 million. The company posted net income per share of $46.46, compared to the consensus estimate of $45.23, and up 14.7% year-over-year.

For the fiscal year 2023, the company’s net sales increased 7.4% year-over-year to $17.46 billion, while its gross profit rose 7.1% from the previous year to $9.07 billion. Its operating profit grew 6.2% year-over-year to $3.47 billion. The company’s EBITDAR increased 7.6% from the prior year to $4.47 billion.

In addition, AZO’s net income rose 4.1% year-over-year to $2.53 billion, and its net income per share came in at $132.36, an increase of 12.9% year-over-year. Its adjusted after-tax ROIC was 55.4%, up from 52.9% a year ago. As of August 26, 2023, the company’s cash and cash equivalents were $277.05 million, compared to $264.38 million as of August 27, 2022.

Regarding its strong performance delivered in the fourth quarter and fiscal year 2023, AZO’s Chairman, President, and CEO, Bill Rhodes, commented, “Our customer service and trustworthy advice are what continue to differentiate us across the industry, and our AutoZoners’ commitment to delivering exceptional service has allowed us to continue to deliver strong financial results.” 

“While we turn our focus to performance in the new fiscal year, we will remain committed to prudently investing capital in our business, and we will be steadfast in our long-term, disciplined approach to increasing operating earnings and cash flows while utilizing our balance sheet effectively,” Rhodes added.

Share Repurchase

Under its share repurchase program, AZO repurchased 403 thousand shares of its common stock during the fourth quarter at an average price per share of $2.502, for a total investment of $1 billion. For the fiscal year 2023, the auto company repurchased 1.5 million shares of its common stock for a total investment of $3.7 billion.

Since the inception of this share repurchase program, the auto parts retailer has repurchased a total of about 154 million shares of its common stock at an average price of $219, for a total investment of $33.8 billion. At the year's end, the company had $1.8 billion remaining under its current share repurchase authorization.

Share buybacks might enable the company to generate additional shareholder value.

Expanding Store Footprint

During the quarter ended August 26, 2023, the auto parts giant opened 53 new stores in the U.S., 27 new stores in Mexico, and 17 in Brazil, for a total of 96 net new stores. For the year 2023, the company opened 197 net new stores. The company’s inventory also increased due to new store growth.

As of August 26, 2023, AutoZone had 6,300 stores in the U.S., 740 in Mexico, and 100 in Brazil, for a total of 7,140 stores.

Impressive Historical Growth

AZO’s revenue and EBITDA grew at respective CAGRs of 11.4% and 11.1% over the past three years. Its EBIT increased at a CAGR of 11.6% over the same period. Moreover, the company’s net income and EPS rose at CAGRs of 13.4% and 22.5% over the same timeframe, respectively.

In addition, the company’s total assets improved at a 3.5% CAGR over the same period.

Favorable Analyst Estimates

Street expects AutoZone’s revenue for the fiscal 2024 first quarter (ending November 2023) to increase 5.1% year-over-year to $4.19 billion. The consensus EPS estimate of $31.16 for the ongoing quarter reflects a 14.6% year-over-year rise. Moreover, the company has an impressive earnings surprise history, as it surpassed the consensus EPS estimates in all four trailing quarters.

AZO’s revenue and EPS for the fiscal year (ending August 2024) are expected to grow 7.5% and 12.58% year-over-year to $18.76 billion and $149.01, respectively. For the next fiscal year, Street expects the company’s revenue and EPS to increase 3.7% and 9.3% from the previous year to $19.45 billion and $162.93, respectively.

Solid Profitability

AZO’s trailing-12-month gross profit margin of 51.96% is 46.5% higher than the 35.71% industry average. Likewise, the stock’s trailing-12-month EBITDA margin and net income margin of 22.75% and 14.48% are significantly higher than the industry averages of 11.04% and 4.44%, respectively.

Furthermore, the stock’s trailing-12-month ROTC and ROTA of 34.04% and 15.82% favorably compare to the respective industry averages of 6.01% and 3.97%. Also, its trailing-12-month levered FCF margin of 8.83% is 71.4% higher than the industry average of 5.15%.

Bottom Line

AutoZone reported positive earnings and revenue surprises for the last reported quarter. Further, the company’s prospects look highly promising, driven by a diversified product portfolio to meet robust demand for auto replacement parts and accessories.

The auto giant also continues to expand the physical footprint of its stores to serve its ever-growing customers worldwide.

Despite the news of its data stores getting breached in a cyberattack earlier this year, AZO could be an ideal investment now, given its robust financials, higher-than-industry profitability, and bright growth outlook.