Western Union Stock: Cheaper, But No Longer Has Moat (NYSE:WU)

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The Western Union Company (NYSE:WU) is likely one of the most storied corporations in monetary providers. For a long time, it was synonymous with cash transfers. Yet, since its debut on public markets in 2006, the inventory worth has been flat. The firm is cheaper than ever, however this engaging valuation has a purpose: Western Union now not has a moat. As competitors will increase, the fact is that numerous corporations can do what Western Union does. The firm’s very success locks it away from having the ability to disrupt itself into the corporate it must be to reach the brand new age. Investors ought to get out.

Shareholders Have Not Been Rewarded For Sticking With Western Union

Western Union spun off from First Data and commenced buying and selling on public markets on October 2, 2006. In the annual report for that 12 months, then president and chief govt officer, Christina Gold, ended the monetary 12 months talking about how Western Union was “incredibly fortunate to have begun our life as an independent public company with strong financial performance and a leading position in a thriving global business.” She spoke in regards to the underserved elements of the world, and “ambitious targets for the immediate future, like increasing our presence and market position in rapidly growing markets like Asia, the Middle East and India, and expanding our C2B segment outside of the U.S.” Since then, the corporate’s inventory market efficiency has been a story of woe. Western Union closed its first day on public markets on October 2, 2006,with a share worth of $19.76. Today, it trades at round $19 per share. Since itemizing, the corporate has delivered 2.53% annualized whole returns to shareholders. The final decade has seen some enchancment, with traders receiving a 4.15% annualized whole return, in comparison with 12.15% for the S&P MidCap 400 (MDY).

Source: Yahoo! Finance

Source: Yahoo! Finance

A shareholder holding the inventory since itemizing would have misplaced 0.19% per 12 months in compounded returns. The firm’s underperformance has continued although administration has shrunk the variety of totally diluted shares by almost 40% since its spin off. As the entire return efficiency reveals, rising dividends from $0.04 per share in 2006 to $0.94 per share in 2022 (for a dividend yield of round 5%), has not saved traders.

Western Union is reasonable. The inventory is buying and selling at a worth/earnings (PE) ratio of 9.57, in comparison with its 5-year PE ratio of 17.48. The firm’s worth/ahead earnings a number of is 20.67 in comparison with a 5-year common of 10.76. Its enterprise worth/EBIT is 8.77 in comparison with a 5-year common of 11.38. And, this is the kicker, the corporate’s underlying enterprise has really improved: since 2012, the corporate has improved returns on invested capital (ROIC) from over 24% to simply over 26% in 2021. Double digit is prime tier.

As a lot as Google is synonymous with search, in lots of elements of the world, making cross-border funds is related to Western Union. Remittances carried out properly in 2020, falling by simply 1.7% regardless of doomsday warnings as a result of pandemic. According to the World Bank, remittances grew by 7.3% in 2021 and are forecast to proceed to develop in 2022. This almost $600 billion market is up for grabs. Western Union’s economics look sound and so they function in a rising and huge sector.

Superficially, Western Union meets all the standards for a beautiful enterprise buying and selling at a reduction to worth. So, what’s fallacious? Western Union is a price lure. The firm’s monetary efficiency hints at why Western Union is buying and selling so cheaply. Since 2006, income has grown by a compound annual progress charge (CAGR) of simply over 2%, from almost $3.7 billion in 2006, to over $5 billion in 2021. Net revenue has declined from $914 million in 2006, to almost $806 million in 2021, compounded at -0.84%. Earnings per share (EPS) have grown from $1.20 in 2006, to $1.98 in 2021, compounding at 3.39%. Investing in Western Union has been an train in treading water.

The Case Of The Disappearing Moat

Stereotypically, disruption is about an previous, jaded large that permits its youthful, extra fleet-footed rivals to topple it with daring improvements. The actuality is that disruption is way more refined than that. Many individuals who discuss in regards to the disruptive impression of Apple’s (AAPL) launch of the primary iPhone ignore the truth that Research in Motion’s greatest years had been after the discharge of the iPhone. Disrupted corporations are usually not run by incompetent folks. Sometimes, their very success locks them into selections that make it troublesome to react to new improvements, as occurred with Kodak. We have to mix Clayton Christensen’s disruption concept with Hamilton Helmer’s concept of counter-positioning. Western Union’s struggles are as a result of it can not adequately reply to disruptive threats not regardless of, however due to its competencies and historic success. Simply put, counter-positioning implies that the prices and dangers of Western Union disrupting itself to win the huge, rising market in cash transfers, notably in remittances, are so excessive that Western Union can not adequately react.

Western Union is led by sensible individuals who perceive the necessity to replace the corporate. The firm has made the correct adjustments to answer digital transformation and rising demand. It has grown its digital cash switch enterprise, which contributed 8% of consumer-to-consumer (C2C) income (which makes up the majority of income) in 2016, to 24% in 2021, based on the corporate’s 2021 annual report. In 2021, Western Union’s digital enterprise handed the $1 billion mark, rising by 22% year-over-year, as the corporate continued to develop its digital enterprise and develop its retail providing. The firm’s new president, CEO and director, Devin B. McGranahan has spoken about how Western Union has expanded its digital and retail partnerships, created a multi-currency digital pockets and digital banking platforms in key nations, and seeks to grow to be a “valued financial partner” for purchasers in every single place. The challenge is just not that Western Union is just not progressive, it’s that its enterprise mannequin has locked it right into a path that’s main towards disruption.

Western Union was once the one recreation on the town, together with MoneyGram (MGI) and banks. For the unbanked, or to ship remittances to nations exterior the core of the world system, Western Union and MoneyGram had been the first options. Readers from the growing world will perceive that there was a time when an individual would “MoneyGram” you, or the place making cross-border cash transfers meant going to Western Union.

Competition is killing Western Union. The rise of tech giants with large money hoards and a want to deploy them in worthwhile ventures, has seen competitors improve. Meta (FB), Alphabet (GOOG) (GOOGL) each provide cash switch options. You can ship cash on Block’s (SQ) CashApp, with PayPal (PYPL), on Zelle, with Xoom, OFX, Wise, and even retail options comparable to Walmart’s (WMT) Walmart2Walmart, and even with crypto, amongst different options. Alibaba (BABA) and different Asian tech corporations provide cash switch options. Today, competitors is not only about direct friends, Western Union has to fret that Big Tech could provide cash switch options. It has to fret about fintech corporations, unencumbered by legacy methods, providing higher options. Bank consolidation within the United States, in addition to globally, has made it simpler to switch cash. Across the European Union (EU), intra-EU funds take lower than 24 hours, usually much less, because of the single euro funds space (SEPA) rules. Today, cash transfers are now not synonymous with Western Union and its previous rival, MoneyGram.

As Ben Evans has argued, shedding a moat occurs, not due to antitrust measures, and even selections taken by an organization. A moat can disappear just because the enterprise stops being the middle of its trade. This is why Western Union can concurrently enhance ROIC, whereas struggling to develop, and going through declining profitability, at a time when worldwide cash transfers are rising. If so, many companies can provide cash switch options, then by definition, Western Union doesn’t have a moat. Whether you are in South America, Africa or Asia, there exist a myriad of options to sending cash and people alternate options are rising.


Investors shouldn’t be fooled by Western Union’s engaging valuation and pedigree. The firm is conscious of the urgent want to remodel itself for the digital age and get nearer to its clients, however it’s counter-positioned away from disrupting itself into the agency it must be to reach this new setting. The firm’s inventory worth efficiency tells us the whole lot. Western Union is cheaper than ever, and that is as a result of the market is true: Western Union now not has a moat. Investors within the firm have to promote.

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