Tyco Tries to Move On

Call me paranoid (or any number of other things), but I just have a hard time believing that when you cut out excessive corporate greed that you can get it all. I'm inclined to think that it's akin to a contagious cancer. You think you got it all out, but in truth it's embedded and ingrained deeply into the culture of the company. Making people believe they're new and improved is what PR is all about, and the public generally buys into it. But ask anybody working down in the ranks of such a company, and I bet they'll tell you not much has changed. That's the cancer.

Then there's the virus. In every corporate scandal there's invariably a number of lesser executives whose names are quickly forgotten that jump ship and pop up somewhere else. They might seem to be on the straight and narrow for a while, but they're more likely to be plotting creative new means for maintaining their previous lifestyle. Don't be naive. People with this mentality think they have rights that other people do not. I'm just not convinced that companies, or rather the people that run them, suddenly turn into Dudley Do-Rights.

But then again, it's also possible for other factors to overshadow or even overtake the problems. That seems to be the case with Tyco (NYSE: TYC  ) -- its fiscal third-quarter income grew 63% to $923 million, or $0.43 a share, while revenue increased 11% to $10.5 billion. Revenue for engineered products led the way with a 41% increase due largely to increased prices. Yes, there were also offsetting resource prices to contend with. So we're talking about inflation here, but Tyco was clearly able to pass on the majority of its increased costs or at least reduce other expenses to compensate. Electronics was another strong area for the company, with revenue moving up 13% for the quarter and orders 16% through July.

The strong quarter led the company to increase its earnings forecast to a range of $1.61 to $1.63 per share, from $1.52 to $1.58. But it also resulted in a 54% increase in free cash flow to $1.3 billion, prompting management to consider further debt repayment, share buybacks, modest acquisitions, or even increasing its dividends.

All seem like good ideas to me, with "modest" being the key word regarding acquisitions. Tyco shouldn't do anything at this point that looks even slightly arrogant or greedy. Don't get me wrong -- companies should be self-serving to the extent that it also serves shareholders best interests. Too often, aggressive acquisitions are shortsighted ploys to boost revenues, stock prices, and therefore executive's options and bonuses. (Of course, then there are the secret meetings in exotic locales.) Still, in Tyco's case, investors seem very willing to give the company second chance.

More Tyco coverage:

Optimistic, but skeptical Fool contributorMark Mahorneydoesn't own shares of any companies mentioned.


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