Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Church & Dwight a Recession Proof Small Cap

Church & Dwight Co $CHD is a great stock to do some equity research analysis on because the co is largely recession resistant, trades on a good evaluation and offers the prospect of some upside from a fall in commodity input costs.

Church & Dwight are in the personal and homecare space and, are a small cap  company which is comparable to the like is Reckitt Benckiser, Colgate, Clorox, Unilever etc.  The company is little discussed but has an excellent track record of generating earnings through the cycle. This analysis seems them being able to generate at least double digit returns for a stock investor from here.

Church & Dwight Brands

The brands can be categorized as a diversified collection of personal and homecare goods. Much of their brands are value propositions which offer upside in a stagnant economy as consumers trade down to cheaper brands. In terms of profits and sales, 80% of them come from their eight leading ‘power’ brands…

  • Arm & Hammer (toothpaste, baking soda, detergent, cat litter)
  • Trojan Condoms and Vibrators
  • OxiClean Laundry Additive
  • Spinbrush Battery Powered Toothbrush
  • First Response Pregnancy Kit
  • Nair Hair Removal
  • Orajel Pain Relief
  • Xtra Extreme Value Laundry Detergent

…which reads like a roll call of US value brands found in the home. However, Church & Dwight is far smaller than its major competitors and its business model is tailored towards grabbing leadership in niche markets.  What makes this company special is its execution.

Church & Dwight Earnings

The management has demonstrated a tremendous ability to grow earnings and revenues over the years and this can easily be summarized below…

Gross Profit
EPS Growth


Analyst estimates for 2012 are for a further 4% revenue growth and 10% EPS growth.  

All of which paints a picture of a recession proof company but 2011 has proved challenging as end demand was lower than initially expected and rising commodity costs put pressure on margin expansion. No matter, the outlook for 2012 presents upside potential as the US economy generates employment gains and commodity costs abate with slowing emerging market growth.

 It is also worth noting that gross margins jumped in 2009 with the fall in commodity prices and, Church & Dwight has managed to hold onto them despite rising costs in 10-11. Similarly, with such a well run business, working capital management is excellent and the co generated large amounts of free cash flow. 

Church & Dwight Evaluation

The stock trades at a price of $44.51 with a market cap of $6.37bn. There is $275m in cash on the balance sheet with $250m in outstanding debt. FCF has grown from $200m to $364m from 2007-2010 at a CAGR of 22% with trailing FCF currently running at $391m.

Obviously, a PE ratio of 20.4x for 2011  makes little sense and even in further ahead where analysts see EPS of $2.19, the PE ratio only drops to 18.5x in 2012. However, the true value in an investment lies in its ability to generate cash and on a current FCF/EV of 391/6350= 6.2% the stock is attractive.

For a relatively secure double digit growth over the next couple of years, this stock could trade on an evaluation closer to $50 with upside potential from reducing commodity costs.  A decent 12% upside.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Anite Half Year Trading Update

A super half year trading update from Anite today which can be read here and there is a more detailed write up on Anite in a previous blog post here. It looks highly likely that broker forecasts will have to be upgraded and this makes Anite an even more attractive stock to buy in order to play the growth in the smart phone market.

Investors would be advised to look at the previous post whilst interpreting the update, of which will summarise below.

Anite Half Year Trading Update

This is a first half update, which for Anite, runs to October. The year end is in April. The key point to note (re earlier post) is that Anite is typically a H2 weighted business. Handset revenues are the strongest growth driver at the moment, so the focus will be on this division.  Note that overall revenues declined from H2 to H1 (2010) last year and that handset revenues were flat.

 However, in this H1 Anite are telling us that revenues are up 60% from the same period last year. This implies a sequential movement in handset revenues from H2 to H1 (2011) of £28.9m to £32.9m, when last year this movement was flat. For H2, Anite are predicting that Handset testing revenues and operating profit will be similar to the first half. This may prove a outlook which is too cautionary.

Now, appreciating that Anite benefitted from in Q1 from a large order from one specific customer, there is still reason to expect that H2 will see its usual stronger performance. In this update, Anite confirmed that Q2 order intake was ‘very healthy’ and that since the last update in September the strong trends have continued. This is in line with what everyone else is saying in the smart phone industry.

Anite Analyst Upgrades

Indeed, knocking up some back of envelope assumptions demonstrates the potential for an upside re-rating here.

  • Conservatively assuming (in line with Anite)  that H2 handset sales are the same as H1 would give full year handset sales at £20.6*1.6*2=£65.94m
  • Last full year sales for Network Testing and Travel were a combined £44.15m

Combining the two, gives full year revenue of £110m when current analyst forecasts are for £103.3m. And, of course, this assumes no H2 bias for handset sales. It also assumes flat full year sales for Network Testing and Travel, even though it appears that Anite are bringing forward the period when ‘material’ sales in 4G testing are due to kick in, to ‘later in the year’ from previously in 2013.

Therefore, there is reasons to believe that Anite’s full year numbers will beat even the revised forecasts that the company is conservatively guiding analysts towards. Following this update,  95p is a reasonable price target.  

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Nice Systems Offers Recession Resistant Growth?

Nice Systems $NICE is a stock that benefits from increasing security and regularity compliance within financial services. They make the kind of surveillance and monitoring systems that the likes of UBS would have needed to make sure that a rogue trader like Kewku Adoboli might have been picked up early on in his activities. As such, Nice Systems primary profit driver is increasing regulation and awareness of ever complex needs to gather information from multiple sources, both internally and externally.

Nice Systems Equity Research

There is a detailed write up on Nice Systems in a previous post on Earnings View. The post is intended to analyze Nice Systems as a possible stock to buy in the light of recent results and guidance.

Turning back to the original post-referred to above- it’s clear that Nice Systems has done quite well this year.

Feb Guidance
Current Guidance
Mid-Point Change
Full Year Revenue
Full Year EPS

The numbers are nothing stellar but it is solid performance and the stock price has moved in a highly correlated manner to the S & P 500. In other words, the stock is flat. The recent earnings were quite good and the company raised guidance but analysts were left enquiring over the book to bill ratio for the third quarter and why it was below one. A number of reasons were given for this on the conference call, which are summarized below

  • Slower customer bookings in the third quarter, some of which were closed in the ongoing fourth quarter
  • Book to bill forecast to be much higher in the fourth quarter
  • Weakness in Q3 not seen in any product line or geography
  • Management explained that the book to bill was also had a pattern of being weaker in the third quarter in previous years, and that this was partly due to the increase in maintenance revenues and the way that business was conducted

All of which, is perfectly feasible but cannot allay particular fears about the macro economic uncertainty creeping into their order book. Moreover, as the share price is tracking the S & P 500, it is perhaps prudent to wait until they confirm a return to a string book to bill ratio in Q4.  That said, Nice Systems rival Verint $VRNT Inc raised full year revenue guidance growth to 9% from 8% in September.

Nice Systems and Verint Systems Recession Proof?

The odd thing about these two stocks, Nice Systems and Verint Systems is that they both increased net income and cash flow through the recession. This is to be understood, as their revenue drivers are relatively secular. However, with Nice Systems, there was a drop in revenues of 6.5% from 08-09 and gross profit fell by 10% However, Nice managed to only lose 7% in EBIT due to reduced SG & A expenses.

This suggests that Nice Systems is relatively recession proof but the problem is that a large amount of the company’s revenue comes from the financial services vertical. Unfortunately, if there is a Sovereign Debt Crisis induced slowdown then it is this sector and its suppliers that will get hit the hardest and, Nice Systems will not be immune from negative sentiment.

Nice Systems Stock Evaluation

No matter, even though the outlook does look uncertain and, investors will want to see the book to bill ratio improve in the next quarter, this stock is an intriguing one to follow for the potential to outperform when/if the Sovereign Debt fears subside. It is certainly not cheap on a PE basis but Nice Systems do generate consistently good free cash flow and as of September had nearly $600m in cash and equivalents on the balance sheet. Its an attractive stock to buy but, for now, its on monitor.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Anite Offers Exposure to Smart Phone Growth

A Smart Phone Stock to Buy

Anite is an interesting stock with which to play the growth in smart phones and next generation 4G LTE technologies. The stock is well placed for growth and is a very good candidate for investors looking to buy stocks for a GARP based portfolio.  Anite has two divisions, namely wireless testing and travel. The latter is an odd fit and will be discussed later, because the real excitement is with the wireless division.

A quick break down of historical six months revenue and adjusted segmental profits reveals the transformation in the business over the last couple of years. Firstly, starting with revenues…

Oct 09
Apr 10
Oct 10
Apr 11

…and then a breakdown of segmental adjusted operating profits…

Adj Op Profits
Oct 09
Apr 10
Oct 10
Apr 11

…and the shift towards profit growth coming from higher margin handset sales is clear to see.

Unlike UK listed Spirent SPT or US listed Ixia $XXIA, Anite provides software whilst the previous companies primarily provide hardware. This means that Anite has more operational leverage and the expansion in margins has indeed been impressive.

A Smart Phone Growth Stock

The handset division is seeing increasing growth from testing in next generation LTE smart phones and in September’s update Anite confirmed that LTE handsets made up 46% of total handset testing revenues, as opposed to 17% for the same period last year.  Qualcomm $QCOM gave results recently and whilst most of the attention was focused on the strong growth of 3G in emerging markets, Qualcomm was very optimistic on LTE as well…

‘And what we're seeing in terms of forward-looking mix is, I would say, tremendous growth in the mass-market smart phones around the world. You're seeing a lot of designing activity in those mass-market areas. We're also starting to see, I think, more penetration of LTE and the leading AP processor coming together.’

…and this market looks set to grow. The early cycle semiconductor companies like Aixtron, Samsung and Intel all affirmed that the strongest growth area for their businesses is in smart phone chip demand.

Moreover, turning to Anite’s Network Testing division, there is a similar trend developing. There is reason to believe that Anite are guiding towards an acceleration in demand here and its not clear if this is baked into analyst forecasts yet. For example, back at the full year results in June, Anite said…

‘Business activity levels in the second half of the year were at more normal levels.  The second half of the year also saw the first minor sales of LTE products in network testing, although levels are not expected to become material until 2013. ‘
…but at the September trading update, Anite implied that ‘material’ sales would now be in the year to April 2012…

‘The Network Testing business performed in line with expectations in the quarter.  The first sales of the Invex 4G benchmarking product were made in the period, although material sales are not expected until later in the year following planned investment in the first half to support the product development.’

So, the handset division is trading ‘significantly in excess; of last year and ahead of expectations and network testing sales appear set for early acceleration. Meanwhile, the Travel division appears to have stabilized with revenues focused on servicing a large client in TUI.

Anite Evaluation

With a stock price of 66.5p Anite trades on a market cap of £198m and has net cash of £9.1m on the balance sheet. Analyst forecasts are for adjusted EPS of 4.5p and 5.4 for 2011-12 respectively.  This would put Anite on a forward PE ratio of 14.7x and 12.3x respectively. This is hardly expensive when you consider that Anite is primarily a software company so much of that profit will be translated into free cash flow.

Indeed, Anite are expected to generate £4.2m and £7.8m in FCF for the next two years and, with mid teen’s earnings growth looking set for the next few years, the stock is undervalued. An evaluation closer to 90p is possibly better value.

In addition, UK peer Spirent has $227m in cash on its balance sheet and is looking to make acquisitions. Anite would be a very good fit. Watch this space.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Is Genuine Parts Company A Genuine Value Stock?

Genuine Parts Company $GPC is a stock that provides a compelling combination of cyclical growth and defensive stability. The recent results were impressive and it is a stock which is a prospect worthy of equity research reports. What makes GPC attractive is that as, a distributor with diversified end markets, it has the ability to decrease working capital in a downturn.

Furthermore, its largest division (Automotive) has the potential to do well in a recession. Although passenger miles do go down in a slowdown, the average age of a car tends to go up as consumers hold off purchases. And older cars need more spare parts. It is an industry trend that has benefitted the likes of pure automotive stock plays Autozone $AZO and O’Reilly Automotive $ORLY.

Genuine Parts Company

However, Genuine Parts Co is a stock that is about a lot more than automotive parts distribution. They also have a cyclical industrial division and small electronics & electrical division (EIS). In addition there is an office products distribution business which has diminished in importance to the GPC over the years.  To demonstrate the evolving nature of turnover and profitability, here is a breakdown of the last five years for Q3…

Division Profits (k)
Q3 2007
Q3 2008
Q3 2009
Q3 2010
Q3 2011

Now clearly, the automotive division is a lot less cyclical than Industrial whilst the office products division is stuck in a rut due to the ongoing rationalization of employment and ultimately office fit outs. However, the key to understanding this business is how Genuine Parts Company is capable of reducing working capital requirements in the face of a recession. This results in favorable free cash flow generation potential over the course of the cycle…

To Q3 2011
Net Income
Depreciation & Amortization
Change in op assets & liabilities
Op Cash Flow
Capital Expenditures
Free Cash Flow

…and at the Q3 results presentation, the management said this with regards cash flow generation for the full year 2011…

'While our several consecutive years of strong cash flow, we expect to generate strong cash flows for the full year and continue to estimate cash from operations of approximately $700 million for the year. At this level, free cash flow after deducting capital expenditures and dividends should be more than $300 million, which is in line with last year. We are pleased with the continued strength of our cash flows and remain committed to our ongoing priorities for the use of the cash.'
In other words with capex forecast at $105m this means 2011 free cash flow is likely to be at $595m.

Genuine Parts Company Evaluation

Now looking at the current stock price of $57.52 this equates to a market cap of $8,980m and an EV of $8950m. The last five years of free cash flow (across a difficult cycle)  average at around $568m which would GPC on a 5 year FCF/EV margin of 6.3% and this is pretty good value, especially as analysts are predicting 10% EPS growth for 2012. However, there are concerns. Most of the cash flow growth has come from cost savings, inventory reductions and greater working capital management. There is a limit to how far this can go.

Furthermore, net income has not really gone up in the last five years and industrial sales tend to fall off a cliff when the economy gets bad.  For example, in 2008 Industrial sales were growing at yearly rate of near 7% until Q3 then suddenly they fell to 0% in Q4 and then -16.4% in the first quarter of 2009.  It is worth noting how late in the year this drop off occurred. This suggests that the Industrial division tends to be a bit late cycle, so the strength we are seeing now could fall quite sharply if the economy worsens.

Frankly, I think it is better to hold a pure play like Autozone AZO or O’Reilly Automotive ORLY and then balance them with other more cyclical stocks than make an outright purchase of GPC right now.