Thursday, March 14, 2019

Keyence's Diverse Business Model Continues To Deliver

From a quality perspective, it’s hard to find many better companies in the automation-enabling space than Japan’s Keyence (OTCPK:KYCCF) (6861.T). A strong player in machine vision, sensors, control systems, and other precision equipment, Keyence is not only a leader in attractive areas like 3D vision and product ID, but it has a long history of “self-obsoleting” and moving out of increasingly competitive markets that are no longer willing to pay for innovation before they become commoditized.

The only problem with Keyence is that its qualities are well-known and typically well-reflected in the share price. I thought the shares were an okay pick back in mid-2018 for longer-term investors wanting a dependable play on automation, but I didn’t think they were particularly undervalued, and the shares have mostly just kept pace with the broader industrial sector, while underperforming Cognex (CGNX) but outperforming a fair few Japanese automation names. I think this recent run in many automation names may be underplaying the risk of further macro deterioration, and while I’d still stand behind Keyence as a long-term holding, I’d wait in the hope of a cheaper entry price.

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Keyence's Diverse Business Model Continues To Deliver

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