Why I think Flight Centre Travel Group Ltd shares look cheap

Uncertainty around the U.S. Presidential election has spurred a broad-based sell-off on the S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO), as investors seek the safety of cash ahead of polling day on November 8. The global market slump which started last week has sent the S&P/ASX 200 Index plummeting almost 4.5%, with no sector being spared.

A notable underperformer during this time has been Flight Centre Travel Group Ltd (ASX: FLT). Its shares have plunged over 10% in October alone. However, with the stock offering captivating growth opportunities and trading at cyclical lows, I believe it’s worth a closer look at current prices.

Flight to safety

Supposed safe haven growth stocks like CSL Limited (ASX: CSL), Sydney Airport Holdings Ltd (ASX: SYD) and Transurban Group (ASX: TCL) trade at high price-earning multiples because investors are willing to pay premiums for the safety of growing yields and dependable earnings through all economic cycles.

Although, Flight Centre cannot offer the same dependable earnings profile (yet), I believe it carries the hallmarks of a solid growth stock which could one day demand similar multiples.

In its 2016 full-year results, Flight Centre reported a record total transaction value of $19.3 billion, with revenue growing 11.2% over the year. Underlying net profit after tax was 3.8% lower, dragged down by one-off costs associated with long-term growth initiatives and airfare price wars.

Even though it was no blockbuster result, I believe Flight Centre’s management is taking the hard road today to achieve sustainable growth for the future. With the company implementing a transition from its capital-heavy storefronts to an omni-channel platform, incremental earnings growth should soon follow as online scalability drives operational benefits throughout the company.

With Flight Centre’s shares changing hands at $32.95 (at Thursday’s close), the company trades on a cheap price-earnings of 13.5x and offers investors sizeable growth opportunities in my opinion.

Growth trajectory

One of the reasons I prefer Flight Centre over peers Corporate Travel Management Ltd (ASX: CTD) and Webjet Limited (ASX: WEB) is the ample growth opportunities available to it. Although Corporate Travel Management and Webjet both possess headroom for growth, Flight Centre appears to have a well-laid plan for sustainable growth over the next five years, making it a better buy than the other two at current prices.

Following a buying spree of international operators (namely, European-based eDreams ODIGEO and Indian-based Travel Tours Group), I believe Flight Centre has the foundations to substantially grow its global market share from its current level ~1% (according to IBISworld).

Furthermore, Flight Centre’s expansion into the vertical business-to-business (B2B) market via its recent investment in Queensland-based Ignite Travel Group strengthens its position in the lucrative B2B sector.

In my view, these investments (and presumably others to come) provide significant upside to Flight Centre’s share price, if it can execute on its long-term strategy.

Foolish takeaway

Just like Brexit and the Eurozone crisis before it, financial markets overreact whenever there is uncertainty afoot. In my mind, the upcoming US election is no different. Irrespective of which candidate succeeds, global share markets will soon forget the impact of a new U.S. President and focus on the next impending disaster.

Accordingly, brave investors who use the increased volatility to back themselves and buy undervalued stocks like Flight Centre should do well if and when market normalcy returns.

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Motley Fool contributor Rachit Dudhwala has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia owns shares of Corporate Travel Management Limited. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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