In a bid to keep growing, some companies resort to a steady stream of acquisitions. But appearances can be quite deceptive, as these deals often come with newly-issued shares and/or rising debt, both of which can impede per-share profits from growing. This “inorganic growth” strategy has been the hallmark of Hain Celestial (Nasdaq: HAIN), which, ironically, is a leading purveyor of organic food and beverages. Every year, Hain makes a few deals and looks like a growth company, until you see that bottom-line results are often disappointing.
The negative sales trends come at a time when organic foods have been in vogue. But organic foods cost more, and many cash-strapped consumers have been switching back to foods that don’t carry the organic label. Analysts currently expect sales to rebound around +5% in this fiscal year that begins in July, though that forecast anticipates continued tuck-in acquisitions. They see profits rebounding a more robust +15% next year, but that forecast looks increasingly aggressive, as Hain’s acquisitions no longer seem to boost profits when a higher share count is factored in.
In coming sessions, shares should come under further pressure as analysts’ estimates ratchet lower, and growth-oriented fund managers move on to stocks that possess real "organic" growth.
|Company Name (Ticker)||Intra-Day Price||Market Cap||52-Week High||52-Week Low||2010*||2011*|
|Hain Celestial (Nasdaq: HAIN)||$18.12||$740M||$21.08||$14.45||16.9||14.7|
|JDS Uniphase (Nasdaq: JDSU)||$11.39||$2.4B||$13.95||$4.44||31.6||21.5|
|Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE: ANF)||$41.32||$3.6B||$51.12||$22.70||22.3||15.8|
|Liz Claiborne (NYSE: LIZ)||$7.03||$660M||$9.72||$2.40||Negative||22.0|
|*Based on consenus estimates prior to recent earnings release|
JDS Uniphase (Nasdaq: JDSU) was the ultimate poster child for the dot.com implosion ten years ago. Shares briefly surpassed $1,000 in the Nasdaq meltup, but eventually made their way down to $2. More recently, shares have started to perk up again, making it look like JDSU is a Comeback Kid. But after the company posted weak fiscal third-quarter results on Wednesday evening, shares are off around -15% today.
This time around, shares look to have suffered a much more temporary setback. Although fiscal third-quarter sales were a bit light, the company’s salesmen were busy inking new deals, which should enable JDS Uniphase to post sharply higher results in the current quarter. It’s not often that you see a stock slide while management issues sales guidance that is more than +10% above consensus forecasts, and represents a +20% sequential improvement.
So why are investors dumping the stock? In large part, it’s a function of heightened expectations. Investors recently bid up the stock in hopes of a blow-out quarter. The “whisper number” had JDS Uniphase bagging sales of around $360 million, well above the published forecasts of around $340 million. (Actual sales came in even lower at $332 million).
Despite the weak results, the robust forward outlook from management should lead analysts’ to raise their profit forecasts for the current quarter by a few cents. And fiscal (June) 2011 profits now look set to be about 20% higher than the current $0.53 a share forecast, based on yet-to-be-revised assumptions for gross margins and operating expenses. Today’s sell-off looks overdone, and as investors digest an increasingly robust outlook, shares should move their way back to the 52-week high of $14, which is some 20% above current levels.
A host of retailers are taking it on the chin after tepid sales reports. Same-store sales at Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE: ANF) fell -7%, pushing its shares down by a similar percentage. Retailer Liz Claiborne (NYSE: LIZ) stands out as the sector’s top laggard, dropping more than -10% on weak results. Most retailers begin to report quarterly results next week, and after the robust rebound the sector has posted over the last year, less-than-stellar results - or an uninspiring forecast - could lead to profit-taking.