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Financial Analysis of Coles Ltd


1.1 Purpose

In this report my purpose is to do a financial analysis of Coles Ltd which provides a basis, on which the valuation of company can be done.

1.2 Scope

This report conducts a financial analysis for Coles by performing a trend analysis of financial ratios using the data given for past 5 years. It also includes a cash flow analysis which along with financial ratios helps compare coles with its industry counterparts, Woolworths and Metcash; and finally this analysis would help in price valuation to calculate a fair price for coles share.

1.3 Methodology

This report is based on primary data available from Coles website as well as secondary data such as research paper, electronic database and other publications.

1.4 Limitation

Although all efforts have been made to use as much available information as possible but there were some constricting factors such as lack of available data of past financial information which restricted this research. Reliability of data and time constraints were also hurdle in performing this analysis.

The biggest shortcoming was that current data was based on AIFR and data for years before 2005 was based on AGAAP, which made comparative trend analysis very difficult.


In this we will be evaluating the firm’s financial ratios and cash flow measures of the operating, financing, and investing performance of a company in relation to key competitors & historical performance. Given the firm’s strategy and goals, together these tools allow the analyst to investigate and examine a firm’s performance and its financial condition.

Ratio analysis is the tool which involves assessing the firm’s income statement and balance sheet data. On the other side, the cash flow analysis relies on firm’s cash flow statement.

2.1 Ratio analysis

The ratio analysis deals with evaluation of the performance of Coles in perspective of its mentioned strategies and goals. In order to achieve this objective a combination of cross sectional analysis and time series analysis is performed. Workings of Ratios for 2006 are mentioned in APPENDIX 4.

2.1.1 Profitability analysis

If we look at the return on equity (ROE) of Coles, for a period of 5 years, it is being observed that ROE has increased in 2006 as compared to 2002. Although ROE has fallen in 2006 (15. 30%) as compared to 2005 (18.30 %) but it can be seen that on an average Coles ROE has been stable or increased over last 5 years. Return on asset (ROA) has also been stable around 10% during the last 3 years and increasing from 7.17% in 2002 to 9.54% in 2006.The main reason for stable ROE and ROA are better performance delivered by the management and as well as the mature characteristic of the industry, that produces stable return as well as stable growth seeing population demographics in the country.

Table 1 Profitability Ratio of Coles Ltd

2006 2005 2004 2003 2002
ROE 15.30% 18.30% 15.69% 12.13% 10.80%
ROA 9.54% 11.57% 10.83% 8.42% 7.17%
Gross Profit Margin 23.53% 23.36% 25.44% 27.38% 24.40%
Net Profit Margin 1.57% 2.08% 1.91% 1.59% 1.38%
Financial Leverage 2.54 2.70 2.21 2.23 2.51

Source: Cole’s financial statement after adjustment

Gross profit has been quite stable and good for the last 5 years but the concerned part is the net profit margin. Net profit margin has been very low, it had been increasing from 2002 to 2005 but it again fell in 2002 to 1.57% from 2.08%. Coles need to reduce its operating and interest expenses so as to increase its net profit margin.

Table 2 Profitability Ratio Comparison within the industry in 2006

Coles ltd Woolworths Metcash


33.80% 7.80%


15.57% 1.69%
Net Profit Margin


2.69% 0.98%
Financial leverage


3.08 3.07

On comparing the performance of Coles with its industry counterparts we can conclude that Coles Ltd is way behind its major competitor, Woolworths, in terms of ROE and ROA which might be attributable to lower net profit margin and lower financial leverage. Coles has higher financial leverage as compared to Woolworths and metcash, which means it, has greater financial risk. But despite of high leverage it has low ROE which confirms the fact that Coles has low net profit margin & asset turnover ratio.

2.1.2 Activity Analysis

A firm’s operating activities require investments in both short-term (inventory and accounts receivable) and long term assets. Activity ratios describe the relationship between the firm’s level of operations and assets needed to sustain operating activities. Asset turnover is important in determining firms ROA; it also formulates reasons of how it will affect firm’s ROE. Evaluating the effectiveness of asset management is the purpose of asset turnover analysis. Short term activity ratios

Working capital is our main concern while evaluating a company. It can clearly be observed that since Coles has high turnover ratios it uses cash basis in its sales. It can be clearly being seen that it took only 4.48 days on an average for Coles to convert its inventory investment back in to cash. From the figures last 5 years we can clearly interpret that Coles has drastically improved its cash conversion cycle from 23 days in 2002 to 4.48 days in 2006.

Table 3 Short-term Activity Ratios for Coles Ltd

2006 2005 2004 2003 2002
Inventory Turnover 8.56 8.04 8.20 6.95 6.80
Avg. No. Days Inv. in Stock (A) 42.65 45.39 44.52 52.52 53.69
Receivables Turnover 72.18 54.86 65.01 43.82 32.27
Avg. No. Days Rec. O/S (B) 5.06 6.65 5.61 8.33 11.31
Payable Turnover 8.44 8.75 9.17 8.28 8.72
Avg. No. Days Pay. O/S ( C) 43.22 41.70 39.82 44.10 41.88
Cash Conversion Cycle (A+B-C) 4.48 10.35 10.32 16.75 23.12

Table 4 Short-term activity ratio comparison, 2006

Coles ltd Woolworths Metcash
Inventory Turnover


13.2 16.09
Avg. No. Days Inv. In Stock (A)


27.65 22.68
Receivables Turnover


42.24 10.9
Avg. No. Days Rec. O/S (B)


8.64 33.48
Payable Turnover


11.18 7.54
Avg. No. Days Pay. O/S ( C)


32.64 48.23
Cash Conversion Cycle (A+B_C)


3.65 7.93

Now, if we compare Coles with its competitors we can see that Woolworths has lower cash conversion cycle and metcash has higher cash conversion cycle. Woolworths has lower cash conversion cycle because it keeps inventory in stock for shorter duration and stock is converted in to good sold in less span of time. On the other hand Metcash keeps inventory in stock for lower no. of days but it provides more no. of days to its receivables for payment due to which it has higher cash conversion cycle. Seeing the industry it can be concluded that Coles has good cash conversion cycle but it can improve on it by reducing the Average number of days for which inventory is in stock. Long term activity ratios

In the analysis of long term activity ratios, long-term asset turnover and property, plant and equipment turnover have been utilized.

Table 5 Long term activity ratios for Coles Ltd

2006 2005 2004 2003 2002
Total Asset Turnover Ratio 372.70% 361.62% 369.45% 323.18% 310.12%
PPE Turnover Ratio 1033.42% 959.34% 958.00% 799.00% 746.09%

On the whole both ratios moved in the same pattern during these periods. Relatively, this pattern shows that asset utilization has improved uniformly for the period ranging from 2002 (310.12%) to 2006(372.70%). This helps to conclude that company is continuously improving its utilization of assets to increase its production.

Table 6 Long term activity ratios comparison, 2006

Coles ltd Woolworths Metcash
Total Asset Turnover Ratio


341.11% 343.81%
PPE Turnover Ratio


993.24% 7359.85%

While comparing to its competitors it can be seen that Cole’s total asset turnover ratio is approximately 30% higher than its competitors. It helps to analyze that Coles is more efficiently utilizing its resources to increase its production as compared to its competitors. Metcash’s high PPE turnover ratio can be contributed to the fact that PPE forms a very small part of Metcash’s total assets. If compare Coles with its major competitor Woolworth on PPE Turnover Ratio we can conclude that Coles has been utilizing its fixed asset better than Woolworths.

2.1.3 Liquidity Analysis

Liquidity is referred to a firm’s ability to have sufficient funds when needed and convert its non-cash assets in to cash easily. Liquidity Ratios are employed to determine the firm’s ability to pay its short-term liabilities. Liquidity analysis enables us to determine Cole’s ability to cover its liquidity risk. Liquidity risk may arise due to shortfall or over liquidity within the firm and this in turn lead to firm’s disability of fulfilling its liquidity needs.

In order to determine firm liquidity level, Current ratio, quick ratio and cash ratio are short- term liquidity ratios which have been employed.

Table 7 Coles Short-term Liquidity Ratios

2006 2005 2004 2003 2002
Current ratio 0.98 1.07 1.20 1.35 1.37
Quick ratio 0.26 0.25 0.40 0.42 0.42
Cash ratio 0.16 0.11 0.23 0.31 0.11

On doing the trend analysis for last 5 years it can be observed that Coles current ratio has been consistently falling, which increases the possibility that Coles will not be able to meet up its short term liabilities. Current ratio has fallen from 1.37 in 2002 to 0.98 in 2006 which is of major concern, as a current ratio of less than 1 means that company has negative working capital and is probably facing a liquidity crisis. The more stringent measure of liquidity is quick ratio and cash ratio which have also been falling uniformly in last 5 years. It seems Coles is falling in to liquidity crunch and might need short term funds to meet its current liabilities. There has been lot of volatility in the cash ratio of the firm as they have been rising and again falling, so we can conclude that Coles is not able to maintain stable liquidity.

Table 8 Short term liquidity ratios comparisons, 2006

Coles ltd Woolworths Metcash
Current ratio


0.84 1.41
Quick ratio


0.37 0.99
Cash ratio


0.13 0.32

As compared to its competitors Coles has better current ratio than Woolworths but has current ratio less than Metcash. Comparing Coles with its major competitor in retail sector, Woolworth, we can clearly see Coles has better current & cash ratio but is behind on quick ratio. On comparing with metcash we see that Coles is behind on all the short term liquidity ratios by a very high margin. Metcash has twice the cash ratio as compared to Coles, which makes Coles ability to meet its short term liabilities questionable.

2.1.4 Long term Debt and solvency Analysis

The analysis of a firm’s capital structure is essential to evaluate its long – term risk and return prospects. The long term debt and solvency ratios which we are going to use here are debt to equity, debt to capital and interest coverage ratio.

Table 9 Coles long term Debt and Solvency ratios

2006 2005 2004 2003 2002
Debt to Equity 1.54 1.70 1.21 1.23 1.51
Debt to Capital 0.61 0.63 0.55 0.55 0.60
Interest Coverage Ratio 7.07 12.54 13.30 8.10 5.77

As indicated by Coles debt and long term solvency ratios, it denotes that firm is not a solvent company and relies heavily on debt financing. The firm’s debt to equity and debt to capital ratios are consistently above 1.00 which shows that Coles employed more debt than equity as its source of financing. Debt to total capital has also been consistently been around 0.55-0.60 during the 5 year period. This shows that firm has been stable with its financing policy and has not done much change with its debt and equity mix. Since it relies so heavily on debt financing, issues can be raised regarding its ability to pay off the interest arising due to long term debt financing but we see that company has EBIT 7 times more than the interest charges it has to pay, so that should concern much. It can be observed interest coverage ratio has declined in 2006, as compared to 2005 & 2004, but it is still able to meet industry benchmarks.

Table 10 Debt and Solvency ratios Comparison 2006

Coles ltd Woolworths Metcash
Debt to Equity


2.13 2.01
Debt to Capital


0.68 0.67
Interest Coverage Ratio


8.5 3.95

Compared to its competitors, long term solvency ratios of Coles seem to be performing optimally. Woolworths has got the highest debt to equity, debt to capital & interest coverage ratio. Historically a debt to equity ratio of 2:1 is considered optimal so Coles can still rely on debt to finance its future undertaking rather then issuing new shares. It can be observed that Coles has interest coverage ratio greater than Metcash but less than Woolworths but that can be attributable to its low profit margin as compared to Woolworths. It seems Coles is at par with its competitors in terms of debt and solvency ratios.

2.2 Cash Flow Analysis

Cash flow analysis is essential to understand that whether the firm’s cash flow have the ability to sustain the business, to meet unexpected obligations and to meet its short term liabilities. This also helps to understand whether firm will be requiring additional financing and firm can take advantage of new business opportunities as they arise.

In cash flow analysis we will evaluate 3 ratios; Operating cash flow to current liabilities, Interest coverage (cash flow basis) & operating cash flow to dividend payment. Methodology for calculation of cash flow ratios is shown in APPENDIX 5

Table 11 Cash flow ratios for Coles Ltd

2006 2005 2004 2003 2002
Op. cash flow to current liabilities 32.82% 29.20% 35.20% 38.74% 38.20%
Interest coverage(cash flow basis) 10.50 13.74 18.82 13.56 10.86
Op. cash flow to dividend payment 2.87 2.67 4.35 4.10 3.92

Based on the table above, we can say that Coles has the ability to service its debts which can be seen in firm’s interest coverage ratio from cash flow basis. Moreover, we observe that Op. cash flow to dividend payment has fallen over the time span from 2002 to 2006 which could be an area of concern. Operating cash flow to current liabilities has also fallen a bit, which means it can be a problem for the firm if certain unexpected obligation come up due to which it might require additional financing.

Table 12 Cash flow ratios Comparison, 2006

Coles ltd Woolworths Metcash
Op. cash flow to current liabilities


34.98% 18.90%
Interest coverage(cash flow basis)


8.45 5.36
Op. cash flow to dividend payment


4.93 8.75

If we compare Coles to its competitors in the industry which it operates we observe that Coles has got better interest coverage ratio (cash flow basis) as compared to Woolworths & Metcash which means that Coles has better ability to service its debts than its counterparts. Coles also has a shortcoming in operating cash flow to dividend payment ratio, as it can be seen it has the lowest operating cash flow to dividend payment ratio. It can be attributable to the fact that it pays more dividends than it should pay. So it can be concluded that Coles needs to reduce dividend payment as it might lead Coles in to financial difficulties if some unexpected obligations turn up. In terms of operating cash flow to current liabilities we see that although it has fallen substantially for Coles in last 5 years but it is at par with its biggest competitor Woolworths & greater than Metcash.

3. Prospective analysis

Prospective analysis enables us to determine future performance of the firm based on historical performance of the company. Here will be determining the mean return for sales and earning before interest & taxes (EBIT) . Using those mean returns we will be making a sales forecast and EBIT forecast.

3.1 Sales and EBIT forecast

In determining the sales growth, I have considered the following assumptions-

  1. Past trend of sales is going to continue in the following years.
  2. Firm is not going to bring a major change in its pricing policy.

The foundation for sales & EBIT growth is historical sales & EBIT growth and I have used mean reverting model to determine the future sales growth, in which future sales & EBIT growth will be mean return of last 4 years sales growth. I have not taken the 5 year sales & EBIT growth because EBIT growth rate is to high in 2002 (73%) which could adversely effect the mean return considering present situation of Coles.

Table 13 Sales & EBIT Growth Rate for Coles Ltd

2006 2005 2004 2003


Sales growth 3.62% 2.33% 19.43% 5.17%


EBIT growth -17.07% 11.68% 34.31% 18.56%


Using the mean reverting model we are able to find out a growth rate of sales for 7.64% & EBIT growth rate of 11.87%. Using these growth rates we will be able to make a sales forecast & EBIT forecast. This forecast will help in proper valuation of Coles on the basis of its predicted future performance.

Figure 1 Line chart for sales & EBIT growth

Table 14 Sales & EBIT Forecast for Coles LTD

2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Sales Forecast 34212 36825.8 39639.29 42667.73 45927.54
EBIT Forecast 875.9 979.8693 1096.18 1226.296 1371.858

Using the growth rates we can forecast the sales and EBIT for Coles which helps an analyst in a fair valuation of the company. The main reason we use the sales growth as a base for forecasting, is that the majority of firm income is derived from its supermarket business.

This forecast suffers from one serious shortcoming that EBIT growth has fallen from 34.31% in 2004 to 11.16% in 2005 and then to -17.07% in 2006 but we are still predicting a growth in EBIT of 11.87% in 2007 and thereafter.

4. Conclusion

I have gone through the multi-step process of ratio analysis, cash flow analysis and prospective analysis to present a report on financial analysis of Coles ltd. During the process, I have identified that Coles is operating in a mature industry with small profit margins.

I have performed ratio analysis, cash flow analysis & prospective analysis which would help a great deal in valuation of Coles based on its current market situation. During the Ratio analysis I was able to conclude that Coles has got good activity & liquidity ratios but the major area of concern is profitability ratios. Coles needs to improve its net profitability so as survive in this competitive environment. Cash flow analysis helped us to depict that Coles has cash flow ratios at par with its competitor, Woolworths, but Coles need to reduce its dividend payout as it is too high as compared to industry counterparts. By doing a prospective analysis I am able to forecast the future sales & EBIT for Coles for next 4 years. Growth rate for forecast has been calculated using the mean return for past 4 years. This helps us to understand future growth of the company.

I would like to conclude by saying that although Coles is competing in a low profit margin industry but it is the 2nd biggest company in the retail industry, therefore if it brings about certain petite changes in its financing and operating activities it can add a great deal to its shareholder’s value.

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