One Person's Trash Is Another Person's Treasure Selection: Arkansas Best

About a month ago, I announced my intention to create a portfolio composed of 10 companies that investors have unjustly cast aside. My goal in creating the One Person's Trash Is Another Person's Treasure portfolio is to highlight just how successful value investing and contrarian viewpoints can be, as well as uncover some great companies that have a good chance of turning their fortunes around. For a more thorough explanation of what I hope to accomplish and how I'll measure my success, I encourage you to visit my portfolio mission statement.

For reference, here are my previous five selections:

For my sixth selection, I've chosen trucking and logistics company Arkansas Best (NASDAQ: ARCB  ) .

Why traders have given up on Arkansas Best
It isn't just that traders have given up on Arkansas Best; the entire logistics sector has been hammered as one issue after another has battered margins and squeezed profits. Trucking companies like Arkansas Best, Con-Way (NYSE: CNW  ) and Werner Enterprises (NASDAQ: WERN  ) have struggled with rising labor, pension, and health-benefit costs, high diesel fuel prices, and reduced demand for shipments within the United States.

Similar struggles have been seen with global logistics providers FedEx (NYSE: FDX  ) and UPS (NYSE: UPS  ) . In September, FedEx lowered its full-year forecast as it noted that fewer international customers were using its premium margin overnight services and were opting instead for shipping by sea or using slower delivery services. Although UPS reaffirmed its forecast in October, it pulled a similar maneuver to FedEx and also lowered its outlook in July on weak international package revenue. 

Since the summer, trucking and logistic companies have faced a growing nightmare as Hurricane Sandy will undoubtedly negatively affect shipping volume in the upcoming quarter and the potential negative impact of falling off the fiscal cliff could leave shippers with even less demand if economic spending is stifled.

Why investors should trust Arkansas Best
Yet for all these blatant faults in the trucking sector, Arkansas Best leads the pack among truckers that look poised to rebound in a big way in 2013.

To begin with, I see Arkansas Best's purchase of Panther Expedited Services being a major boost to the company's long-term domestic and international logistics business. Panther is unique in that it doesn't own its own trucks, but rather shares a percentage of revenue with truck owners, leaving it free and clear of maintenance and fuel costs. Also keep in mind that Panther Expedited was purchased for a very fair $180 million (about 7.5 times EBITDA), yet the merged entities are only worth a combined $236 million in market value as of this writing -- far too cheap, if you ask me.

Second, Arkansas Best does have pricing power despite what many would come to think of the logistics sector. Like FedEx, which has been pushing higher prices on consumers to make up for its lack of growth overseas, Arkansas Best instituted a 6.9% price increase earlier this year and may do so again to maintain its $0.12 annual dividend and stabilize its cash flow.

Finally, I fully believe in the management team at Arkansas Best. As I've noted on previous occasions, only two of 11 higher level executives have been with the company for less than 10 years. A highly cohesive management team is a big key to begin able to shift business operations in a dynamic sector like logistics.

What you'd get here
Arkansas Best may look rough around the edges now, but let me tell you that I fully expect the next few quarters to turn this rock into a diamond. Currently, Arkansas Best is trading for just 50% of its book value (a steep discount that I alluded to) and what I consider to be an inexpensive 15 times forward earnings.

Following multiple earnings warnings across the trucking sector, estimates on Arkansas Best and many of its peers have fallen like a rock, giving the sector a good chance to run over Wall Street's estimates in the second-half of 2013. Arkansas Best, for instance, was valued at a forward P/E of just 8 not more than two months ago, so you can get an idea of just how quickly its EPS estimates have fallen.

You also get "hang on, we're getting better" dividend that's yielding 1.3%. Not well known for paying out a dividend, Arkansas Best has been paying out some form of stipend to shareholders for 20 years. This is the perfect mix of contrarian opinion and deep value that make Arkansas Best a great selection for this portfolio.

Check back next week, when I unveil the seventh in a series of 10 selections for the One Person's Trash Is Another Person's Treasure portfolio.

If you're looking for more revolutionary picks, then you'll want to check out The Motley Fool's chief investment officer's No. 1 stock for the next year. Find out which stock it is in our brand-new free report: "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2013." I invite you to take a copy, free for a limited time. Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this under-the-radar company.


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