If it weren't for its storied history and industrial focus, Emerson Electric (NYSE: EMR ) might be considered a growth stock. And though its businesses are somewhat cyclical, lately, its stock has largely avoided the volatile stock market cycle of the past few weeks.
Shares of Emerson saw a nice pop yesterday after it released third-quarter results that included a 13% sales increase and impressive earnings growth of 22%. Core growth of 9% combined with approximately 3% from a weak dollar -- which benefits overseas results when converted back home -- to generate most of the sales growth. Acquisitions accounted for the rest.
Top-line growth continued to be balanced, with only the appliance and tools segment posting a single-digit increase. Notable strength occurred in the process management unit, which helps production plants run smoothly. All divisions reported double-digit earnings margins as well, with the above segments again leading the way.
Fools gotta love a company that also stresses its "focus on cash flow generation and return on total capital." Operating cash flow grew 45% for the quarter and free cash flow advanced 57%, putting Emerson well on its way to returning 50%-60% to shareholders in the form of dividends and stock buybacks (one of the company's long-term goals).
It gets better; Emerson upped its guidance for the full year. It now expects earnings of $2.58-$2.63, for year-over-year growth of 15%-17%, as sales should expand 10%-12%. It is also projecting free cash flow of $2.1 billion, or about $2.60 per share.
That puts the price-to-free cash flow multiple at just under 19, which seems decent given the growth Emerson is currently posting. The only bone I have to pick with the company is that capital spending has been trending below depreciation and amortization. This could hurt the company when it matters most -- during a down cycle in the economy when reinvestment into the business could help offset any adverse effects as customer demand heads south.
It may not matter in the long term, as Emerson has increased its dividend for decades now, illustrating its consistent ability to benefit investors. This impressive performance matches the industrial equipment powerhouses such as General Electric (NYSE: GE ) , United Technologies (NYSE: UTX ) , and Honeywell (NYSE: HON ) . And with a much smaller market cap, Emerson could continue to expand steadily, except for the occasional recession. But there have been plenty of those since Emerson first opened its doors in 1890.
For related Foolishness:
Fool contributor Ryan Fuhrmann has no financial interest in any company mentioned. Feel free to email him with feedback or to discuss any companies mentioned further. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.