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Toy stocks don't get a lot of attention during the sleepy summer season, but that isn't getting in the way of a rude awakening for Hasbro (Nasdaq: HAS ) shareholders.
Shares of the leading toymaker opened 6% lower this morning, after BMO Capital Markets analyst Gerrick Johnson downgraded the stock.
Wall Street's model-crunching pros are certainly welcome to their informed decisions. So am I, though, and I suggest that Johnson is dead wrong about Hasbro this time.
Let's first look at his pessimistic thesis. Johnson is setting a 12-month price target at $31, well below where Hasbro is trading today. He concedes that Hasbro deserves to trade at a premium to its peers but thinks the economic downturn will sting the industry heading into this year's telltale holiday season.
He's right that Hasbro is the class of the industry. It hasn't fallen into the recall pit of toxic toys that stung rivals Mattel (NYSE: MAT ) and RC2 (Nasdaq: RCRC ) . It hasn't dipped into the red ink as LeapFrog (NYSE: LF ) and Action Products (Nasdaq: APII ) have. It also hasn't missed its quarterly earnings targets, the way Russ Berrie (NYSE: RUS ) and JAKKS Pacific (Nasdaq: JAKK ) have lately.
That last point is important, because it plays into Johnson's projected profitability. He sees earnings at $2.00 a share this year and $2.05 come 2009. That's well shy of the $2.21 and $2.54 that Wall Street is looking for in 2008 and 2009, respectively.
So why is Johnson such a lowballing meanie? Analyst estimates for Hasbro have crept higher -- albeit slowly -- in recent months, so he's cutting against the grain.
Hasbro has now blown past Wall Street's earnings targets in each of the past five quarters. There's little reason to bet against that trend. So it's not that his ridiculous $31 price target for next summer is an unfair multiple of 15 times his earnings estimate or a cheap 12 times the rest of the market's guess.
Analysts have a history of underestimating Hasbro. They also, apparently, have a knack for underestimating that parents tend to spend more to make their kids happy than they do themselves during tough economic times. If pennies will be pinched, it will be on pricier video-game systems, with the lower-priced Hasbro wares making logical sense in turbulent times.
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