Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Orbotech's Multi-Prong Growth Strategy Looking Better And Better

I liked Orbotech (ORBK) back in the summer of 2016, but my bullishness then underestimated the emergent momentum in the company’s business and the market’s enthusiasm for tool/machinery plays leveraged to trends like OLEDs. While Orbotech’s revenue growth can be erratic from quarter to quarter, the third quarter saw all the pieces coming together and management’s November analyst day laid out a bullish outlook for the next three years.

Valuation is less clear-cut to me now, with the shares up about 60% over the past twelve months and close to 250% over the past three years. Demand tied to advanced smartphones, AR/VR, OLED, and other applications should be able to drive double-digit revenue growth for the next few years and high single-digit growth for the long term, but it’s hard to have confidence that the good times will just keep rolling in what has long been a cyclical industry. Although, I think you can make a cogent argument that the company’s growth and margin prospects over the next three years can support a higher price; there’s not much of a safety net from discounted cash flow and I consider this a higher-risk prospect from valuation and earnings predictability standpoints.

Read more here:
Orbotech's Multi-Prong Growth Strategy Looking Better And Better

A Little Near-Term Softness Hasn't Changed The FEMSA Story

Although FEMSA (NYSE:FMX) haven’t done all that well since my last write-up, I think the modest pullback could be another opportunity for long-term investors to acquire shares in one of the best-run Mexican companies, not to mention one with consider room left to grow. FEMSA shares have been hurt by a combination of currency moves, natural disaster-related traffic disruptions, and some concerns about capital allocation, but I believe these are all short-term issues that don’t impinge upon the underlying value.

I continue to believe that FEMSA will leverage long-term high single-digit revenue growth into double-digit FCF growth, supporting a fair value in the $105 to $115 range. FEMSA has several NPV-positive potential capital projects to choose from, including accelerating the growth of OXXO, acquiring more drug stores, or expanding further outside Mexico, and I believe pullbacks below $100 are good buying opportunities.

Click here for more:
A Little Near-Term Softness Hasn't Changed The FEMSA Story

Roche Delivers Some Clinical Wins, But Skepticism Remains Largely Intact

Even though Swiss drug giant Roche (OTCQX:RHHBY) has managed to deliver a series of largely better-than-expected clinical trial results, you wouldn’t really know it from the share price. Despite a lot of skepticism going into the IMPower 150 read-out for Tecentriq in first-line lung cancer, Roche’s successful result seems to not to have done much to resolve questions and concerns about how it will stack up with rivals like Merck’s (MRK) Keytruda. So too with the very positive results from the HAVEN 3 study of Hemlibra.

As IMPower 150 was only the first, and arguably the riskiest, of five front-line Tecentriq trials in lung cancer, I think Roche is in a good position going into further read-outs in 2018. Likewise, I believe Roche has a long-term winner with Hemlibra even as gene therapy approaches look to gain meaningful share in the hemophilia space. At a minimum, then, I would argue that Roche has established three strong new drug platforms (Tecentriq, Hemlibra, Ocrevus) with blockbuster potential on top of a very robust R&D pipeline.

I believe Roche is undervalued up into the mid-$30s. Competition from biosimilars is going to do its damage to near-term reported financial results, but the market has known about this for some time. With Roche having, at least in my opinion, reestablished credibility that it can develop meaningful new therapeutics, I believe the shares are undervalued today on the basis of both its existing business and the potential pipeline contributions over the next decade.

Follow this link for more:
Roche Delivers Some Clinical Wins, But Skepticism Remains Largely Intact

Orchids Could Bloom Again After Withering Competitive Pressure

Orchids Paper Products (TIS) has been an awful call for me over the past 18 months, as this manufacturer of primary private-label tissue products was hit hard by pricing moves from the competition and its own elevated costs and challenges tied to getting a new plant up and running. At the worst, the company saw revenue drop more than 20% year over year, leading to its first quarterly operating losses in a decade, serious liquidity pressures, and the suspension of the dividend. With all that, the shares are less than half the price they were the last time I wrote about this company.

On the positive side, the company's new Barnwell facility is up and running, the company has been successful in targeting more premium business, and the book of business over the next year would suggest record revenue and EBITDA. On the negative side, price and cost pressures remain a risk and the company must do something about its liquidity situation, as there is little room for error here.

I believe a lot of things went wrong for the company all at the same time, but I don't believe the story is broken. If the new business comes through as expected, Orchids should be back on a path toward high-single-digit/low-double-digit revenue growth and a return to operating and free cash flow margins in the mid-teens. Those, in turn, support a fair value in the mid-to-high teens, making Orchids a high-risk story that does at least offer some upside.

Click here for more:
Orchids Could Bloom Again After Withering Competitive Pressure

Trouble With ING Is That Everyone Knows It Is Good

I’ve liked Dutch multinational bank ING Groep (NYSE:ING) for quite some time now and seen investors run hot and cold on the bank due to issues like its unbalanced exposure to dollar-denominated lending, its exposure to energy lending (which wasn’t that large), its capital requirements, and economic concerns about the markets in which it operates. More recently, though, ING seems to be getting more of its due on the basis of its solidly profitable retail banking franchises, its expense leverage, and its best-in-class digital offerings.

ING shares have performed toward the upper end of its peer group range over the last few years, lagging ABN Amro (OTCPK:ABNRY) a bit, but otherwise performing well next to KBC Group (OTCPK:KBCSY), BNP Paribas (OTCPK:BNPZY), Erste Bank (OTCPK:EBKDY), Deutsche Bank (NYSE:DB), Banco Santander (NYSE:SAN), and Nordea Bank (OTCPK:NRBAY). With that, I can’t really say these shares are undervalued anymore. There are certainly worse things than holding the shares of a fairly valued bank that is executing well and that pays a good dividend, but this isn’t really a name for bargain hunters looking to pay $0.80 and get a dollar back.

Continue here:
Trouble With ING Is That Everyone Knows It Is Good

Compass Continues To Offer Some Value

It has been a while since I’ve written on Compass Diversified Holdings (NYSE:CODI), a trust that specializes in acquiring stakes in small-to-mid-sized companies, letting those management teams do their thing, and then harvesting the cash flow for distribution to shareholders and/or reinvestment in expanding the business. In the interim, CODI has basically stuck to its core model – disposing of a few assets, raising some capital, and redeploying capital into new acquisitions that should provide growing distributable cash flow into the future.

CODI shares are up about 15% since I last wrote about the business, but during that time, shareholders also collected sizable distributions (which are taxed differently than regular dividends). Although I do still have some concerns about the modest long-term growth prospects of the portfolio and the frequent quarter-to-quarter turbulence in portfolio company results, I still see enough value to make this a worthwhile name to consider for investors who want returns that are more skewed toward income. Should opportunities like 5.11 Tactical live up to their potential, though, there may be a little more growth potential than commonly appreciated.

Read the full article here:
Compass Continues To Offer Some Value

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

It's Early, But PRA's Fundamentals Looking Better

It's too soon to sound the "all clear" and much too soon to just assume that PRA Group (NASDAQ:PRAA) will get back to historical levels of productivity and financial success, but there is a stronger base for a positive view now than there has been in some time. PRA still has to get its staffing situation sorted out (and improve productivity), and there are still big challenges in Europe, but the supply situation is looking better, and yields could potentially improve from here.

The "but" is that the shares are up about a third from their lows in the fall. However much of that was short-covering, the reality is that the current valuation reflects what I think is a reasonable recovery scenario. There are still avenues toward higher estimates (improved collections is the key one), but I'd say a mid-$30s price is pretty fair for the time being.

For the full article, click here:
It's Early, But PRA's Fundamentals Looking Better

A Drawn-Out Reset Of Expectations Should Lead To Better Days For Lenovo Shares

Lenovo's (OTCPK:LNVGY) bold and controversial decisions to try to work its PC magic in the mobile handset and server markets has thus far proved the doubters right. Margins have eroded since the acquisition of IBM's (IBM) x86 server business and Alphabet's (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Motorola business, and the share price has fallen by two-thirds from its mid-2015 high as investors have grown weary of the delays in transforming the acquired businesses into profitable contributors and grown more concerned about the long-term health of the PC business.

There are still valid reasons to worry that Lenovo shares could be a value trap, but expectations have been beaten down to a low bar. Lenovo's strategy to target higher-performance, higher-value markets in mobile and servers is a break with the company's past, but a logical one. What's more, management has not had to surrender much market share in PCs in its effort to support margins.

If Lenovo can grow revenue at a long-term rate between 2% and 3% and pull its adjusted free cash flow margins back up into the 2%-3% range, a fair value in the range of $15 to $17 still makes sense, even with a double-digit discount rate. The key question, though, remains whether or not the company can turn its mobile and server businesses into positive contributors (and/or jettison them) and restore investor confidence in Lenovo's business model and strategy.

Click here for more:
A Drawn-Out Reset Of Expectations Should Lead To Better Days For Lenovo Shares

Geared To Growth, Societe Generale's New Plan Doesn't Offer Much That's New

Between disappointing third quarter earnings and a new multiyear strategic plan that I believe many investors found underwhelming, Societe Generale (OTCPK:SCGLY) (GLE.FR) has seen its shares pressured once again. Although there have been some signs of life in this French bank’s international operations, the domestic operations have been lackluster, as have the capital markets businesses. Still, this is a bank that is structurally geared toward growth, and if economic growth does in fact pick up across Europe, Societe Generale may yet hit its long-awaited 10%-plus ROE target and unlock meaningful value.

Read more here:
Geared To Growth, Societe Generale's New Plan Doesn't Offer Much That's New

GenMark's Credibility Is Dented, But The Sell-Off Is Excessive

If anything has been consistent about GenMark (NASDAQ:GNMK) over the past couple of its years, it has been this small diagnostic company’s difficulties in meeting its own development timelines. While the company did see the approval of its key ePlex multiplex molecular diagnostics system this June (after a roughly two-year delay), the company recently missed earnings expectations in a big way, lowered guidance for both revenue and system placements, and announced further delays for its blood culture cartridge.

GenMark is the kind of stock that will make investors prematurely grey as they wrestle with the meaningful potential of the system (and the molecular diagnostics market more generally), management’s execution issues, and the competitive landscape. I do believe the major downward move in the stock since August has created another opportunity for aggressive investors, but that opportunity has to be balanced against the very real risk that this is a company that will never get its ducks in a row and/or will not be bailed out by a buyout at an attractive multiple.

Continue here:
GenMark's Credibility Is Dented, But The Sell-Off Is Excessive

Familiar Concerns Dogging Middleby

Even though value-oriented investors tend to approach the investment process with more patience than growth or momentum investors, timing still matters. Had I been writing this article on Middleby (MIDD) just three weeks ago, I’d probably have concluded that the shares offered a rare chance to pick up a proven (if controversial) grower at a reasonable valuation. With the third quarter results in the books, though, the shares have shot up more than 15%.

Although Middleby isn’t back at peak multiples, I’m more cautious on the shares with that recent run. There are still growth issues here, and I’m not fully convinced that the Commercial Foodservice and Residential businesses are in the clear. There are still ample growth opportunities for Middleby, but Welbilt (WBT) seems to be performing better than it has in recent years and it’s tough to make the cash flow numbers work unless you’re willing to accept what I believe is a relatively low required rate of return given the risks in the business model.

Read the full article here:
Familiar Concerns Dogging Middleby

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

ABB Seeing Key Markets Starting To Turn

ABB (ABB) hasn’t been able to keep pace with Rockwell (ROK) during this industrial upswing, but the shares of this power and automation company haven’t fared too badly next to Siemens (OTCPK:SIEGY), Schneider (OTCPK:SBGSY) or Emerson (EMR) over the past year, as management has used M&A to patch some holes and as key markets start to turn around. With major end-markets like utilities, oil/gas, and metals/mining only just starting to improve, there could be meaningful late-cycle potential for ABB. Longer-term, opportunities in automation and EV-related spending likewise look promising.

ABB shares still look a little undervalued, which I attribute in part to the fact that the company’s sales haven’t rebounded to the same extent as other industrials (more late-cycle exposure) and also to ongoing worries/doubts about management’s ability to drive margin improvements and better capital efficiency. Although Siemens and Schneider have their merits, and I’d definitely consider Rockwell on a rare meaningful pullback, I think ABB shares still offer enough value to be worth a closer look.

Read the full article here:
ABB Seeing Key Markets Starting To Turn

Can Accuray Build Some Momentum?

Small-cap radiation oncology specialist Accuray (ARAY) has long been an exercise in patience (and/or frustration, depending on whether you’re a “glass half-full” investor), but the strength in the shares since October’s earning release (up more than 30%) has been nice to see. The biggest question, though, remains unchanged – can Accuray string together a meaningful run of good quarters, exceed guidance, and establish a reasonable basis for believing that the company can grow to be both a viable competitor to Varian (VAR) and Elekta (OTCPK:EKTAY) and a profitable company?

I remain in the camp of “disappointed optimist”; I continue to hold my small position in these shares in large part because I believe the clinical benefits of Accuray’s platform are meaningful and underappreciated. The question of whether Accuray’s management can translate those benefits into tangible profits and cash flow for shareholders remains firmly open. Valuation likewise remains very tricky – I don’t believe the shares are all that cheap if the company can’t generate more than 4% long-term annualized revenue growth, but the story changes if and when mid-to-high single-digit revenue growth becomes plausible.

Read more here:
Can Accuray Build Some Momentum?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

RenaissanceRe's High-Quality Model Serving It (And Investors) Well

Hard times tell you a lot about companies, and the combination of a very soft pricing market and recent catastrophe losses have highlighted a lot of what is good about RenaissanceRe (NYSE:RNR). While the shares have certainly lagged the S&P 500 over the past year, and lagged rival/peer Arch Capital (NASDAQ:ACGL), RenRe hasn't done poorly relative to other insurers like Everest Re (NYSE:RE), Aspen (NYSE:AHL), or Validus (NYSE:VR). Throughout this tough period, RenRe's underwriting standards, strong balance sheet, and business flexibility have served the company well, despite some erosion in underwriting profitability.

RenRe is trading at a premium relative to long-term valuation norms. Some of that can be attributed to what I believe is a legitimate and well-earned quality premium, but I do have some worries that investors have been too eager to factor in the benefits of harder insurance markets. While I do still see some upside for shareholders from here, I'd be cautious about establishing a big new position at these levels.

Follow this link for more:
RenaissanceRe's High-Quality Model Serving It (And Investors) Well

FirstCash Looking Forward To Value-Creating Opportunities

FirstCash (FCFS) shares have done well since my last update in August, with the shares rising about 14% as the company continues to execute very well with its Mexican pawn stores. Looking not all that far ahead, the company should start reaping the benefits of integrating its Cash America stores and converting them to FirstCash’s more sophisticated and efficient IT system as well as expansion into a new Latin American market (Colombia).

Valuation is more of a challenge for me now. I’m very willing to acknowledge that there’s no end-all/be-all approach to valuation, and the market is often happy to overpay for growth, but the risk/reward ratio now is more in keeping with a good hold than a “must buy.”

Continue here for the full article:
FirstCash Looking Forward To Value-Creating Opportunities

Buoyed By The Industrial Recovery, Automation The Next Driver For Lincoln Electric

Managing expectations is an underappreciated part of the investor relations process, but it is all the more challenging when the company in question has earned more than just the benefit of the doubt through years of above-average execution. Lincoln Electric (LECO) has long been an excellent company, but the reactions to the last few earnings releases (significant sell-offs) underline the high expectations that accompany this leader in the welding industry.

I like the long-term prospects for Lincoln Electric. The acquisition of Air Liquide makes the company even more competitive with Colfax (CFX) outside the U.S., and the company's investments in automation and specialized applications like hard-facing should pay off with above-market growth for many years. The "but" is the level of expectations already built into the stock - while I believe Lincoln Electric can deliver long-term FCF growth in the high single digits, I'd need a share price in the low $80s (or below) to get to an attractive total expected return.

Read more here:
Buoyed By The Industrial Recovery, Automation The Next Driver For Lincoln Electric

Copa Holdings Flying High Again On Market Recoveries And Internal Improvements

Economic troubles in key commodity-driven markets like Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela certainly hurt Copa Holdings (NYSE:CPA) in the recent past, as the shares dropped around 75% from their peak in early 2014 to their low in the fall of 2015 and accompanied a 20% drop in revenue driven by weaker yields. Since those 2015 lows, though, investors have come back to these shares in a big way - the shares are within 15% of their prior peak (and up more than 50% so far this year) as yields have started to recover and the company has been expanding capacity.

There are a lot of positives that I see with Copa. The challenges in 2014-2016 forced the company's management to take a more critical look at their operations, and I believe efforts to control costs, improve revenue yield, and re-emphasize profitable expansion will pay off down the road. What's more, the company remains well-placed in a critical hub location (Panama's Tocumen airport) and continues to focus on low-traffic routes that don't lend themselves to profitable direct competition. Add in numerous future expansion opportunities and the recovery potential of Brazil and Colombia, and I believe Copa can look forward to strong growth for a number of years.

Read the full article here:
Copa Holdings Flying High Again On Market Recoveries And Internal Improvements

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Wins Another Round

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (ALNY) scored another big win Thursday morning, with the company's detailed presentation of clinical data on patisiran showing strong efficacy and safety relative to future competitor Ionis's (IONS) data on inotersen in patients with hereditary ATTR amyloidosis with polyneuropathy (also called familial amyloid polyneuropathy, or FAP).

Alnylam's data were quite good, but not a knock-out blow against Ionis's inotersen, as you can expect Ionis to build its marketing message around an easier and more tolerable administration and perhaps compete on price. Still, for Alnylam, this head-to-head competition went about as well as could be expected and should raise the hopes of getting an advantageous label from the FDA.

Read the full article here:
Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Wins Another Round

Neurocrine's Ingrezza Launch Continues To Exceed Expectations

To quote from the A-Team, "I love it when a plan comes together." Although it is still very early, Neurocrine Biosciences (NBIX) is executing well on the launch of its wholly-owned drug Ingrezza, and its partner AbbVie (ABBV) continues to move elagolix closer to the finish line for both endometriosis and uterine fibroids - indications that could both support more than $1 billion in royalty-generating sales. Additionally, Neurocrine continues to develop its clinical pipeline, with the company having started a new Phase IIb study for Ingrezza in pediatric Tourette's and planning to move its drug for congenital adrenal hyperplasia (or CAH) into a Phase II proof-of-concept study.

The market is reacting quite positively to the much better than expected revenue for Ingrezza, and the strong initial launch is encouraging, but the next few quarters could be a little more volatile as Neurocrine will have to contend with a competitive launch from Teva (TEVA), sampling, and shifts between the 40mg and 80mg doses. Even so, I believe the shares are undervalued now, with multiple clinical events on the horizon.

Click here for more:
Neurocrine's Ingrezza Launch Continues To Exceed Expectations

Execution Risk Back On The Table At Wright Medical

Orthopedic extremity specialist Wright Medical (WMGI) continues to be a frustrating "two steps forward, almost two steps backward" story, as fiscal third quarter results came in below expectations, and management lowered guidance on ongoing execution issues in the lower extremity business. Although the strength of the shoulder business is a meaningful positive, and the lower extremity business is hardly beyond repair, the company's inability to drive consistent execution relative to its own targets remains frustrating and an impediment to the stock.

I've previously said that Wright Medical is a stock to consider buying in the mid-$20s and selling in the mid-$30s, and I believe that remains the case. While the latest reset to expectations is disappointing, Wright Medical still has the potential to grow revenue at a high single-digit long-term rate and drive FCF margins into the 20%s. "Potential" is one of the dangerous words in investing, though, so investors have to at least consider the risk that Wright Medical's ongoing execution issues remain in place, and/or that rivals like Stryker (SYK) steal the company's thunder in the still-fast-growing extremities market.

Continue here:
Execution Risk Back On The Table At Wright Medical

Better Late Than Never For MSC Industrial

One of the recent concerns about industrial maintenance, repair, and overhaul (or MRO) supply distributor MSC Industrial (NYSE:MSM) was why this leading distributor of metalworking tools (among other MRO supplies) was not seeing more benefit from the emerging industrial recovery in North America. Those concerns should ease a bit with the strong daily sales reported for the fiscal fourth quarter, but the company's long-term margin leverage remains a key question, and increased competition from Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and now Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A) shouldn't be ignored.

I've owned MSC Industrial for some time, and I've written many times that when there's a conflict between "good company" and "good valuation", I go with the former. That said, there are legitimate arguments as to whether MSC is as good of a company as it used to be and whether today's valuation already captures a lot of what can go right for the business. Although I'm not rushing for the door, and there aren't a lot of clear bargains in the industrial space, it's hard for me to make a buy-case on the stock beyond a play on improving trends (momentum) in metalworking and related industries and at least a few more beat-and-raise quarters.

Read more here:
Better Late Than Never For MSC Industrial

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

3M Comes Back Strong In The Third Quarter

With its high valuation multiples and above-average visibility, 3M (MMM) needed a better result than what it delivered in the second quarter – a quarter that was marked by average organic revenue growth, rare pricing weakness, and weak margin performance. Fortunately, for shareholders, 3M came through and delivered a quarter that, while not perfect, was still quite strong on a relative basis.
Valuation is still problematic. I can’t really come up with a set of circumstances whereby these shares look cheap, so I suppose the argument comes down to some version of “almost of all of its peers are expensive, so if you have to own an expensive stock, why not this one?” I still own these shares myself (but it is not a large part of my portfolio), and I think management still has moves to make to drive better results, but I do worry that today’s valuation is setting the stage for unimpressive returns down the line.

Read more here:
3M Comes Back Strong In The Third Quarter

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Renewed Operating Leverage From U.S. Bancorp Nice To See

Long one of the best-run banks out there, U.S. Bancorp (USB) has an interesting long-term challenge – as the performance of the “pack” continues to improve, does U.S. Bancorp still have levers to pull that can continue to allow it to stand out? This is, after all, a conservatively-run, very efficient, not especially asset-sensitive operation that already has sizable (and lucrative) fee-generating, non-banking businesses.

I thought U.S. Bancorp's shares were pretty richly valued at the start of the year, and the year-to-date performance, though positive, has lagged the S&P 500 and rival banks like Bank of America (BAC), PNC (PNC), JPMorgan (JPM), Citigroup (C), and SunTrust (STI). I expect profitability to improve next year, as the AML/BSA issue resolves, and asset sensitivity has been improving, but the shares still aren’t cheap. I wouldn’t suggest that long-term investors need to consider bailing out, but I do think the total return prospects are relatively modest.

Click here for more:
Renewed Operating Leverage From U.S. Bancorp Nice To See

Asset Sensitivity And Cost Restructuring Have Brought Comerica's Groove Back

Comerica (CMA) is something of an odd duck in its pond. Big enough to have to go through the CCAR process and operating across an extended geographic footprint, CMA is nevertheless quite a bit smaller than the likes of U.S. Bancorp (USB), PNC Financial (PNC), BB&T (BBT), and Fifth Third (FITB). It’s also uncommonly asset-sensitive and committed to business lending – residential mortgages and consumer loans make up less than 10% of the loan book – but has long struggled to achieve attractive operating leverage.

Odd isn’t always a bad thing, though, and Comerica is reaping the benefits of higher rates and a thorough restructuring effort. If U.S. growth can accelerate from here, driving better commercial loan demand, Comerica could really enjoy a run of strong earnings growth. That said, the share have shot up more than 50% in the last year, and more than 75% in the last three years, and it is difficult to see much undervaluation unless you factor in some combination of higher-than-expected rates, 3%-plus U.S. GDP growth, less regulation, and/or meaningfully lower corporate taxes.

Read the full article here:
Asset Sensitivity And Cost Restructuring Have Brought Comerica's Groove Back

Grupo Aeroportuario Del Centro Norte Still A Tough Call As Traffic Weakens

I wasn’t overly fond of the short-term prospects for Grupo Aeroportuario del Centro Norte (NASDAQ:OMAB) (or “OMA”) back in July, as I was concerned about how the shares would respond to further weakness in traffic and headline risk around NAFTA, not to mention longer-term concerns regarding the Mexican economy, the next election cycle, and changes to air traffic patterns within Mexico. The shares are down about 20% in that short window since July, with rivals/peers Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico (NYSE:PAC) and Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste (NYSE:ASR) down roughly similar amounts. 

Traffic growth has continued to weaken, and not just because of multiple natural disasters. Worse yet, there are particular pockets of weakness (like the non-aero revenue per passenger trends in Monterrey) that still concern me. As I already expected weaker results, the changes to my model are mostly tied to currency moves, and my fair value is still above today’s price. While the apparent undervaluation is tempting, buying into shaky traffic trends and problematic per-passenger revenue is uncomfortable for me and I’m inclined to keep watching this name from the sideline.

Read more here:
Grupo Aeroportuario Del Centro Norte Still A Tough Call As Traffic Weakens

Not Much Going Right For Wells Fargo Yet

When I last wrote about Wells Fargo (WFC) earlier this year, I thought the shares were undervalued, but that the company was going to need time to pull itself out of the hole it created with its fraudulent sales/account processes. Since then, the shares have continued to underperform peers like Citigroup (C), Bank of America (BAC), JPMorgan (JPM), PNC (PNC), and U.S. Bancorp (USB), as the bank's performance continues to underwhelm on multiple fronts.

Although the shares do still seem undervalued (in a relatively expensive banking sector), the weak trends in loan growth, interest margin expansion, and key fee-generating businesses are a concern to me. I do believe Wells Fargo's huge deposit base and strong market share across a wide swath of the country should, and does, count for something, as well as the bank's sizable middle market and asset-backed/equipment finance operations. For patient investors who can live with near-term underperformance, these shares are still worth consideration.

Read more here:
Not Much Going Right For Wells Fargo Yet

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Monsanto Ending On A Position Of Strength

For a company that has been around for a while and leads its industry, there’s an odd cyclical quality to Monsanto (MON) where sell-side analysts seem to get ahead/behind of the company’s growth curve, leading to multi-quarter periods of out/under-performance relative to expectations. Monsanto looks to be late in the game with another outperformance cycle, but that likely matters much less now that the company should be approaching the end of the line as a publicly-traded company.

It remains to be seen if Bayer (OTCPK:BAYRY) will get all of the final approvals it needs to acquire Monsanto. No insurmountable obstacles have appeared yet, but there is still a risk that regulators could dig in their heels and/or demand concessions that Bayer finds unacceptance. Although there’s still about 5% upside between today’s price and the deal price, that’s not really out of line relative to the remaining risk (and time). Consequently, I’m more inclined to look for the exit with my Monsanto position and find new investment ideas.

Read the full article here:
Monsanto Ending On A Position Of Strength

PNC Financial Producing Balanced, High Quality Growth

PNC Financial’s (PNC) management is relatively conservative in many respects, but that is not keeping the company from posting good numbers as spreads increase and credit remains benign. Better still, there are plans on the table with respect to expanded commercial lending and improved retail banking efficiency that should support additional incremental growth in the years to come.

Although Bank of America (BAC) has outperformed PNC over the last year, PNC’s share price performance has been quite strong relative to peers like Citigroup (C), JPMorgan (JPM), Wells Fargo (WFC), U.S. Bancorp (USB), and BB&T (BBT). Looking ahead, PNC has above-average growth prospects, but the shares do seem to already reflect a lot of that. Changes to corporate tax law and/or bank regulation could support higher growth rates, but the shares look more or less fairly-valued on the assumption of 6% to 7% long-term growth. That said, in a banking sector without a lot of clear bargains, I do believe PNC is an incrementally better option.

Read more here:
PNC Financial Producing Balanced, High Quality Growth

For Citigroup, Slow And Steady Could Still Win The Race

Even though Citigroup (NYSE:C) has left something to be desired with respect to the pace of its recovery (particularly next to peers like JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM)), the shares’ 48% rise over the past year and 43% rise over the past three years is hardly embarrassing. Although shareholders of JPMorgan, Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), and PNC Financial Services Group (NYSE:PNC) have fared better over that longer time period, Citi has nevertheless outperformed U.S. Bancorp (NYSE:USB), BB&T (NYSE:BBT), and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC).., and could yet have the opportunity to do meaningfully better in the years to come.

I don’t believe Citi has really earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to management’s performance targets out to 2020, and I do believe there are some optimistic assumptions in there, but I nevertheless believe that expectations are still relatively low. If Citi could generate long-term earnings growth in the range of 5% a year (a little higher than my base case), the shares would look undervalued on the basis of my discounted earnings model. Likewise, if the company can do better in terms of generating return on tangible equity (or if the Street decides to penalize lower-return banks less than it has), there would be upside on a ROTE-P/TBV basis.

Read more here:
For Citigroup, Slow And Steady Could Still Win The Race

Sunday, October 15, 2017

JPMorgan: Another Quarter, Another Beat

The idea of “core” earnings can seem a little wobbly when it comes to large banks, but JPMorgan Chase (JPM) has been executing well relative to expectations for almost three years now. Not only has JPMorgan maintained a strong position in areas like trading and credit cards, it has shown that it can grow share in retail banking, commercial banking, and commercial services. With that, JPMorgan shares have done quite well over that same time period – handily beating Citigroup (C), U.S. Bancorp (USB), and Wells Fargo (WFC), and outperforming Bank of America (BAC) and PNC (PNC) too, although just barely in the case of PNC.

Although the shares no longer look like a clear-cut bargain, that’s a common issue across the banking sector (if not the market as a whole). It does still look as though the shares are priced for mid-to-high single-digit returns, so I wouldn’t be in a big hurry to sell – particularly as I believe JPMorgan still has opportunities to drive worthwhile revenue and earnings growth in the coming years.

Click here for more:
JPMorgan: Another Quarter, Another Beat

BorgWarner Delivering The Content Growth

BorgWarner (BWA) has had a good year. I last wrote about the stock around the time of its 2016 investor meeting and thought then that the stock was undervalued and that the Street was overly pessimistic about the company’s positioning for the eventual transition away from internal combustion engines. It also didn’t help matters that the company hadn’t been doing a great job with its quarterly financial results vis a vis management guidance and analyst estimates. Since then, organic growth has improved significantly and the company has made a pretty compelling case for how and why it will continue to be a leader throughout the process of electrifying passenger vehicles. The shares have certainly responded – rising nearly 50% since that last article.

It’s harder for me to bullish now given the valuation. I don’t think the company is likely to get the FCF margin leverage it needs to validate today’s price on a DCF basis, though I freely acknowledge that content/share growth and margin leverage are more important drivers to the shares of auto components companies in the short run. This is back on a watchlist for me now, though, as I would like a better balance of opportunity and risk before committing funds to a position.

Continue here:
BorgWarner Delivering The Content Growth

Dana Doing The Right Things And Reaping The Benefits

Finding an undervalued stock with a solid story behind it is always good, but finding that story getting better with time is even better. That's what appears to be happening with Dana (DAN), as this diversified supplier of components for passenger, commercial, and off-highway vehicles continues to execute well on its plan to grow content, improve margins, and position itself for the evolving demands of its end-markets.

It can be deceptively easy to get caught up in and taken along with Wall Street's short attention span-driven boom-and-doom cycles. With that in mind, I've been cautious about fundamentally overhauling my long-term growth and profitability assumptions for the business. I do like Dana's prospects for value-adding M&A, margin self-improvement, and leveraging a better mix (including more power tech products down the line), but I don't believe Dana is going to suddenly become a FCF-generating machine in an industry where mid-single-digit margins are generally the best that even great companies (like Cummins (CMI)) can do. To that end, while a fair value in the $20s seems reasonable, and I'm comfortable modeling exceptional cash flow growth, today's valuation already seems to be pricing in a lot of progress.

Read more here:
Dana Doing The Right Things And Reaping The Benefits

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Tenneco Generating Above-Sector Growth While The EV Future Looms


It’s commonly accepted that stock prices are, at least in part, a product of discounted future expectations. The trick here is that how far investors will try to look into the future, and how they view that future, is almost always in flux. And so it is with Tenneco (TEN) – while this leading provider of emissions control and ride performance products is enjoying above-sector growth on the back of increasing content, the shares have gotten smacked around from time to time on worries about Tenneco’s place in the future evolution of passenger vehicles.

Electric vehicles (and battery-powered vehicles in particular) are almost certainly coming, but how quickly they become the predominant vehicle type on the road is an open question and has a lot of ramifications for modeling out Tenneco’s cash flow. Assuming 10% annual erosion in the emissions business starting in the late 2020’s still gives me a fair value around $60, making these shares more of toss-up after this strong rally from the low $50’s.

Read more here:
Tenneco Generating Above-Sector Growth While The EV Future Looms

Wabtec In A Value-Growth Tug-Of-War

Wabtec (WAB), one of the leading suppliers of parts, components, and systems to the freight and transit train sectors, continues to see turbulent conditions both in its operating results and its share price performance. The stock has gone basically nowhere since I last wrote about the company, but there’s actually been some pretty wide swings between the peak and trough (roughly 35%) over the past year as investors seem to be struggling with a strong “want to like” instinct and some rather spotty financial results.

The shares still leave me a little uneasy. I think Wabtec is well-run and I believe the Faiveley deal will add value both through expense leverage and broadening the company’s horizons (in transit and in non-U.S. markets). But I also believe that freight spending could be weaker than bulls expect, and these shares often react poorly to disappointment. I do believe that mid-to-high single-digit growth can support a fair value in the $80’s, but investors considering these shares need to be aware of that ongoing tug-of-war between the bull and bear camps and the impact it can have on the share price in the short term, and especially around events like earnings reports.

Click here for more:
Wabtec In A Value-Growth Tug-Of-War

Miller Industries Isn't Growing Like It Used To

Ignored by sell-side analysts, Miller Industries (MLR) has long been a company that I’ve liked – the long-term revenue growth is modest and the business is cyclical, but the returns on capital have been better than decent. These shares have done a little better than the S&P 500 over time and quite a bit better than Oshkosh (OSK) and Spartan (SPAR) – neither of which are great comps, but the pool of candidates is limited – and the shares are up about a third from the time of my last write-up.

I’m not as bullish now, though. Sales growth has slowed and margin leverage has started looking wobbly. What’s more, the valuation is more demanding now and there are some macro concerns for the towing industry as a whole. Although these shares are by no means wildly overvalued in my opinion (and could have some leverage to tax reform), I don’t see enough of a discount to fair value to excite me today as a new buyer.

Read more here:
Miller Industries Isn't Growing Like It Used To

S&W Seed Has To Rebuild Its Growth Credibility

Small-cap growth stories rarely manage to avoid bumps in the road, but the bumps that S&W Seed (SANW) have hit have been larger than average, taking the shares down almost 40% since my article on the company back in October of 2016. In addition to some ongoing challenges in growing conditions, the company has seen serious destocking among major customers in Saudi Arabia and the resignation of its CEO, not to mention meaningful reductions in guidance and expectations.

S&W isn’t past a point of no return, but there’s a fair bit of debt on the balance sheet, not much likelihood of strong near-term cash flow, and a lot of variables that are outside of management’s control. This company could still generate $200 million or more in revenue within the next 10 years, but this is really only a story suitable for investors who can take on risks that are well above average.

Click here to continue:
S&W Seed Has To Rebuild Its Growth Credibility

AllianceBernstein's Unsteady Progress Continues To Cap The Valuation

AllianceBernstein Holding LP (AB), the asset manager that is majority-owned by AXA SA (OTCQX:AXAHY), still just can’t get a lot of love on the Street. Although the company has continued to build its assets under management and margins are improving, progress has been inconsistent and AXA likely rattled investors with a major management shake-up earlier this year. AllianceBernstein continues to make progress in areas like its equity fund performance, but investors still seem reluctant to believe that the company can rebuild itself back into a leading money manager.

Even with a longer, slower ramp toward higher margins, AB units still look undervalued to me and they continue to offer a high yield (over 8% as of this writing). I understand that partnerships aren’t for everyone and the influence/control of AXA is another valid issue, but the shares continue to look undervalued to me for patient income-oriented investors.

Read more here:
AllianceBernstein's Unsteady Progress Continues To Cap The Valuation