Hertz Global Holdings (NASDAQ: HTZ), a vehicle rental company with a history stretching over a century, was one of many to close the doors and restructure its business during the COVID-19 pandemic. After all, how could a vehicle rental company turn a profit when travel was slowed to a crawl?
Fast-forward to today, and Hertz is a remarkable turnaround story. It has gone from a company loaded with a mountain of debt to one poised to rejuvenate its fleet and accelerate its growth.
With Hertz back from the dead, is it time to scoop up shares before everyone else catches on?
How did Hertz get here?
Here's a brief recap for investors unaware of how Hertz is still in business. Essentially, a group of investors provided the company with nearly $6 billion in capital, and the resolution of its bankruptcy allowed Hertz to wipe away more than $5 billion in debt.
In addition to those moves, management was able to line up access to another $10 billion in liquidity through loans, credit lines, and other means. Investors with a lot of money threw out a lifeline during Hertz's bankruptcy restructuring in a bet that it could rebound when the pandemic subsided and the economy and travel bounced back.
If 2022 is any indication, it was a smart bet, and the gamble by those groups of investors will pay off nicely. In fact, just last month, Hertz reported a strong fourth quarter and record full-year net income and adjusted EBITDA.
Beyond its full-year records for adjusted net income and EBITDA of $1.5 billion and $2.3 billion, respectively, Hertz repurchased 128 million common shares throughout the year, reducing its capital base by 28.5%.
Now emerging from bankruptcy as a more focused and capable company, what is Hertz currently doing to position itself for profitable growth?
Where does Hertz go from here?
One major difference between Hertz and its competitors is that the company emerged from bankruptcy with a very forward-thinking concept. Hertz has been early in adopting electric vehicles as a part of its fleet, and that could pay off handsomely.
Hertz's focus on electrifying its fleet goes beyond simply offering a new type of vehicle to consumers, which itself is a plus. The company expects the EV fleet to last longer than traditional combustion engine vehicles, meaning less maintenance cost on the cars.
Hertz has inked large deals with Tesla, Polestar, and General Motors for tens of thousands of vehicles to jump-start its goal of having 25% of its rental fleet electrified by the end of 2024. And the partnerships don't stop there; the rental company has even connected with oil juggernaut BP to build a charging-station network across the U.S. market.
Further, its electric push is more intriguing when you consider that Hertz locked up these large deals ahead of its competitors, initially hindering many EV makers' ability to produce enough for others who might try to copy the strategy. As an example, when Hertz inked its deal with Tesla, the order was equivalent to roughly 10% of what the automaker could produce in a year, and Tesla is one of very few that can produce EVs at such a scale.
Eventually, of course, more EV makers will produce more vehicles, and rivals will likely copy the EV strategy. But Hertz has a head start on the modernization of its fleet, proof that management is more future focused than the Hertz execs of old.
Back from the dead
Only a few years ago, Hertz was left for dead, and for good reason. But not only has the rental company emerged as a leaner, more profitable, forward-thinking company, it appears the industry -- which is roughly 90% controlled by Hertz, Avis, and Enterprise -- is no longer pushing for market share at the cost of profitability. Hopefully, for investors' sake, that strategy stays long-term.
Investors would be wise to consider that Hertz is a cyclical stock, and it will experience impactful swings in vehicle pricing and travel volume. But long term, in a much more stable industry, thanks to a focus on profitability, Hertz is an intriguing stock to buy and hold as it reaps the advantages from restructuring its business and modernizing its fleet.
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Daniel Miller has positions in General Motors. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends BP and Tesla. The Motley Fool recommends General Motors and recommends the following options: long January 2025 $25 calls on General Motors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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