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Shares of retailer V.F. Corp. (NYSE: VFC ) rocketed to new all-time highs today after the maker of Lee and Wrangler jeans reported fourth-quarter results that easily sailed past analysts' expectations. The company's earnings eclipsed consensus estimates by $0.14, and it also saw 2011 earnings rising. With V.F. stock hitting new highs, you might be wondering if there's any value left in the stock at these levels.
Well, the good news for bulls is it appears V.F. Corp's stock has about as many lives as Brett Favre's career. This quarter should become the norm, not an anomaly, and the stock could make a significant run higher.
V.F. Corp. invests in its brands. It's absolutely the most basic concept, but so many retailers fail to invest in proper advertising and product development to get their brands not only into retailers but off the shelves. V.F. Corp has made sizable investments in its outdoor and action sports segment, headed by North Face and Vans -- and the results have been nothing less than phenomenal, with global revenue up 20% year-over-year. Marketing expenses reached a record level on a percentage basis of revenue this quarter, but not surprisingly, gross margins also hit record levels during the quarter, at 46.6%.
International growth is also a key strategy to many retailers right now, but few have been able to properly capitalize on it. V.F. Corp has recognized the strength in its international businesses and saw a 60% revenue jump in India and a 31% climb from Asia in the full year. Nearly every business segment is showing strength abroad, and the company also gets the added benefit of a usually friendlier tax structure when investing there.
The company hasn't overleveraged itself to the premium denim market. As the price of cotton soars to the heavens, premium denim retailers True Religion (Nasdaq: TRLG ) and Joe's Jeans (Nasdaq: JOEZ ) have felt the pinch in their bottom lines. V.F. has seen a mild contraction in gross margins due to rising cotton prices, but this level should be affected by less than 1%.
Finally, V.F. takes care of its shareholders. The company pays out a 2.6% annual dividend, which is supported by the more than $1 billion in cash flow it generated from operations in 2010.
It's not surprising to see V.F.'s premium-brand sales weaken, but since they make up such a small portion of the overall business, the intermediate and long-term growth prospects still look promising. Even after today's move, the company is trading around 14 times its forward earnings guidance and still appears inexpensive. If you had a choice between V.F. Corp moving higher or Brett Favre playing another year, my money would be on V.F., but that's just me.
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