This Industrial Gem Is Still Incredibly Cheap

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Finally, you can score one for the value investor and the virtue of patience in a market that has done its best to reward neither. As the market has continued its relentless sprint to new highs, the rewards have been much greater by holding shares of high priced growth stocks. Investors have loaded up on these high beta names and have been partying like its 1999. Value has been hard to find, and with virtually no pullbacks since this summer, opportunities have been shallow for dip buyers.

A winner still in value land
However, shares of Hardinge (Nasdaq: HDNG  ) one of the few real value names left in this market, popped by more than 18% on Thursday, after it posted spectacular results that showed a very impressive recovery from the previous couple of years. I have been watching shares of this designer and manufacturer of computerized machining tools for a while now. The good news is the stock is still extremely cheap, and large enough to warrant discussion within the Foolish community.

Hardinge suffered through the recession, as most companies in the machinery and capital equipment space do. Anticipating declining revenue, Hardinge's customers cut back capital expenditures significantly in order to reduce costs. For example, large global customers in the construction space such as Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) and Deere (NYSE: DE  ) saw demand drop off a cliff and as a result were forced to halt spending, devastating profits at Hardinge. However, while shares of these construction giants have sprinted to all-time highs over the past few days, shares of Hardinge had barely budged from depressed levels that valued the stock well below its net tangible asset value. Even shares of competitors like Hurco (Nasdaq: HURC  ) and Kennametal (NYSE: KMT  ) have each increased more than 65% from their August 2010 lows, as Hardinge has remained relatively flat. I believe solid fundamentals and a still-cheap stock means the company has some upside and newfound momentum on its side.

Diversification of revenue
Hardinge's 45% sales increase and 63% order increase compared to the prior year was impressive, as was its significant earnings improvement resulting in a $0.17 share gain per diluted share, compared to $0.73 loss a year ago. More important, though, is the geographical diversification of its revenue, and its rapid expansion in China as well as other Asian countries.

The company was actually the target of takeout bid last February by Brazilian competitor Romi. The initial offer was $8 a share, which represented a 42% premium over the price where shares were trading at the time. Romi was interested in Hardinge because of its strong presence in Taiwan and China. Later, Romi upped its offer to $10 a share in July but was rebuffed by management, in what now looks like a pretty savvy decision.

While Hardinge doesn't break out its sales within specific countries, its revenue in Asia was up 99% in 2010, and is now contributes to 48% of the company's total revenue. The company also forged a relationship with a key component supplier to the electronics industry in China that generated $35.8 million dollars for Hardinge in 2010. CEO Richard Simons said, "we won this order because the customer recognized that we have the engineering, sourcing, and manufacturing expertise to meet their demanding requirements, and we are delivering on that ability. This serves us well with this customer but also, we believe will continue to open doors for us with other customers looking for a company that can deliver a multiple machine order of specially adapted machines."

The company is still a relatively small player in this growing region. While North America and Europe now combine to account for about 52% of Hardinge's revenue, China should continue to be a key growth driver for the company as Europe and the U.S. continue to recover at a slower pace from the recession.

Aside from its wide geographic reach, the company is also a supplier of many industries in beyond construction services. Hardinge supplies the automotive, aerospace, defense, communication, and medical instrument industries. Its customers are wide-ranging and far reaching such as Ford (NYSE: F  ) , Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) , AT&T, and General Electric.

Still cheap
It's hard to recommend a stock after a significant one-day move like Hardinge had on Thursday, but I will argue that the stock is still really cheap. In fact, its Thursday closing share price of 11.55 is still well below its net tangible asset value of 12.75. You're not going to have much luck findings stocks trading below their net tangible assets in this market, especially in a company that just crushed earnings estimates and has tremendous growth potential both here and abroad. It's always difficult to buy a stock after a big move, but investors looking for value still have a winner in Hardinge.

Andrew Bond owns no shares in the companies listed. Ford Motor is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Hurco Companies is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick.  You can follow Andrew on Twitter @Bond0 or on his RSS feed. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2011, at 10:58 AM, iceemaster wrote:

    I first bought this stock in May '08 @ $14.33.....I thought it was a value then and have been patiently waiting for the market to recover....well impatiently waiting......your article omitted that Hardinge is considered one of the best, if not the best, in metal forming machine tools.

  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2011, at 6:55 PM, jalleninvest wrote:

    This was a Net Net Current Asset play, available when it was selling for half Net Net Current Assets!

    Among it's other amusing virtues, it has virtually no debt.

    Even in the low teens, it is still at little more than book value. Now it will become a momentum play!

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2011, at 8:46 PM, MrAbundance wrote:

    Zero debt, great balance sheet and the manufacturing sector which they service is growing at a record rate "Globally" means this stock will continue to climb............ Hmmm, as a matter of fact, this is a company that the Oracle from Omaha would be drooling over!

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