CEO Performance of 125 of Northern California’s Largest Companies

VIDEO: "Not Everyone Deserves a Medal"

Cultural commentators have derided the millennial generation as the “Everyone deserves a medal generation.”

VIDEO DISCUSSION: “Not Everyone Deserves a Medal”

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Who’s Really Winning?

The criticism is that by providing undifferentiated praise, this generation is not being prepared for the real world where there are winners and losers. In the same way, there seem to be a lot of corporate rankings that hail all companies regardless of performance. Unfortunately, in the real world, the market does separate the winners and losers on a daily basis.

Given that a CEO’s primary duty is to allocate capital to its highest and best use, we ranked CEO performance of 125 of Northern California’s largest companies according to their ability to earn returns above their investors’ required return. For example, if a CEO’s company had $1 billion of capital tied up in working capital and fixed assets and investors require a 10 percent return, then the company would need to generate $100 million of profit (e.g., $1 billion x 10% required return) to fairly compensate its investors. The market bears out this approach by valuing companies that earn returns above their required return 2.5x higher than those that do not.

Figure 1 below highlights the Top and Bottom 5 companies in the SCCO International CEO Performance 125 according to the highest return above their required return:

Figure 1: Top and Bottom 5 Value Spread

To further examine the role of returns, we segmented the 125 companies into two groups and compared their respective performance. Group I consisted of the 85 companies (68 percent) with returns above their required return, while Group II consisted of the 40 companies (32 percent) with returns below their required return. Group I was the hands-down winner in all categories, outperforming Group II according to market value, return and growth measures.

Figure 2 below highlights how companies earning returns above required returns significantly outperformed companies earning returns below required returns in 2011:

Figure 2: 85 Companies Earning Returns Above Investor Requirements

Please click here for access to the SCCO International CEO Performance 125.

First, at year-end 2011, the market valued Group I companies demonstrably higher than Group II companies. Group I’s average market to book multiple of 5.2x is approximately 2.5x Group II’s average market to book multiple of 2.1x. In other words, the market is valuing every $1 invested in Group I at $2.50 versus only $1 for Group II. Clearly, the market does not believe in the “everyone deserves a medal” philosophy.

Next, we compared the performance of Group I and Group II over the last five years. During this period, Group I delivered higher returns and grew faster than Group II. The average return on capital for Group I was 26 percent versus 1 percent for Group II. Group I grew sales at 10 percent annually and delivered an average profit margin of 10 percent, while Group II grew at 16 percent annually with an average profit margin of 0 percent.

Going forward, Group I should emphasize growth since growth combined with high returns builds value. Conversely, Group II companies would generate relatively more value by focusing on margin improvement. Many CEOs fall into the trap of thinking that high growth will cure all; however, if margins remain low, then additional growth will only drive profits, free cash flow and value down.

In summary, returns do matter. Companies that exceed their investors’ required returns are valued significantly higher than companies that do not. The CEOs of these companies have strategies in place that deliver higher returns and more profitable growth, which is why they really are winners.

To read the Southern California “CEO Performance of 100 of Southern California’s Largest Companies” report published in the last issue click here.

Authors of the article
Patrick Furtaw
Patrick Furtaw,

: is a Partner of SCCO International, based in Los Angeles. He has more than 15 years of experience advising senior executives on business portfolio strategy and change management processes across a broad set of industries. He is an expert in the field of value realization with a focus on market price strategies and sales management. Patrick is also a member of Pepperdine’s Crest Advisory Board. Patrick can be reached at pfurtaw@scco.com.

Steve Chopp
Steve Chopp,

: is Senior Advisor to SCCO International and an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business where he teaches courses on valuation and M&A. His background includes senior roles in corporate and consulting focused on helping companies drive sustainable improvements in long-term value. Steve may be reached at schopp@scco.com.

John K. Paglia, PhD
John K. Paglia, PhD,

: As Associate Dean, Dr. Paglia leads the design and delivery of evening and weekend business degree programs for working professionals, as well as oversees student recruitment for these programs and the school-wide marketing, communications, and public relations functions. He founded the award-winning Pepperdine Private Capital Markets Project for which he has been recognized by the Association for Corporate Growth with an “Excellence in M&A Award” in 2011 and the Alliance for Mergers & Acquisitions Advisors and Grant Thornton with a “Thought Leader of the Year Award” in 2012. Paglia is a frequent speaker on the topics of privately-held company cost of capital, valuation, access to capital, and financing and deal trends at valuation and M&A conferences. Dr. Paglia holds a Ph.D. in finance, an MBA, a B.S. in finance, and is a Certified Public Accountant and Chartered Financial Analyst.

More articles from 2012 Volume 15 Issue 2

VIDEO – Wall of Worry: Elections and the Markets

2012 is shaping up to be the year of global political change with important changes in the government in Russia, France, Italy, and of course the upcoming presidential election here in the United States.  How will financial markets be influenced by such political turmoil and how can investors prepare?

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An implicit challenge is to coordinate the efforts of groups with different interests to realize expected gains. This means that acquisitions quickly go from numbers to considering the impacts on people, as achieving synergy requires clear communication of the implications of an acquisition to those impacted.

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