There's Cash in Coatings

Sealants specialist RPM International (NYSE: RPM  ) may be racing circles around its more cyclical peers, but it's no caulk of the walk. The coatings captain doesn't hype its results, and it doesn't have to. Just check out its record fiscal-third-quarter numbers.

In a very depressed residential construction market that's taking competitors like Sherwin-Williams (NYSE: SHW  ) and customers like Home Depot (NYSE: HD  ) to the woodshed, RPM is still racking up gains in its consumer segment. With 6% volume-driven organic sales growth (which backs out the impact of a divestiture), pre-tax segment earnings ripped 18% higher. That's some operating leverage worth ogling.

As is the case with General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) , RPM's industrial segment is being boosted by major international investments in petrochemical, oil and gas, and power projects. The industrial business notched a 10% sales gain, with dollar weakness accounting for nearly half of that. To borrow from a recent McDonald's commercial, "Did I say weak? The dollar's looking strong. The dollar's looking gooood." Dollar pain is RPM's gain.

On a related note, about a third of the specialty chemical maker's debt consists of variable-rate notes. The same interest rate cuts that are pressuring the dollar are thus also lowering RPM's interest payments. Net interest expense fell 15% from the comparable period last year, and the company carried debt at an average rate of 4.9%, versus 5.5% a year ago.

Once again, RPM raised its outlook for fiscal 2008. One could accuse this management team of playing coy, but ongoing pleasant surprises are no reason to place this outperformer in the penalty box. RPM investors should just sit back, relax, and watch weaker rivals get the ax.

Related Foolishness:

  • Last quarter, RPM was clearly revving up.
  • A Foolish colleague perceived a buying opportunity back in October. Luckily for latecomers, shares are priced about the same today.
  • Here's a closer look at RPM's pricing power.

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