Over the past two years, Whirlpool (NYSE: WHR ) has announced the return of hundreds of new jobs to, and the making of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of plant upgrades for manufacturing products in, America.
And it's not hurting Whirlpool's profits one bit.
Whirlpool reported earnings Friday. Here are the highlights:
- Sales for the second fiscal quarter of 2013 grew more than 4% to $4.7 billion.
- Operating profit margins climbed roughly two full percentage points, to 7%.
- Profits rose more than 70% to $2.44 per share.
Just how good was this news? "Sales increased in every region of the world as we continued to expand margins." That assertion from CEO Jeff Fettig pretty much sums up how great things are going for Whirlpool right now. So this story is bigger than just the reviving U.S. housing market, and a few more thousand homeowners buying washers and dryers to outfit their new digs. Demand for Whirlpool products is increasing across the board, and around the globe:
- North America -- sales up 5%, with profits growing twice as fast.
- Europe, the Middle East, and Africa -- sales up 6%, with losses shrinking.
- Latin America -- sales up 6%, and profitable.
- Asia -- sales up 4%, albeit less profitably.
And it gets better. With business booming, Whirlpool now predicts it will earn as much as $10 per share on profits from ongoing business operations this year. GAAP: $10.05 to $10.55 per share. At the upper end, therefore, this stock could be trading for as little as 12.2 times Whirlpool earnings for this year.
Free cash flow is growing, too. Viewed under the harshest possible light, I see $386 million in FCF for the past 12 months. So even with free cash flow continuing to lag reported earnings, that means the stock costs about 26.5 times trailing FCF. That's not at all unreasonable for a stock projected to grow earnings at 26% annually over the next five years.
Long story short, after seeing Whirlpool's earnings report, I'd say the stock is looking pretty cheap today. At worst, focusing on FCF rather than GAAP earnings, it still looks fairly valued.
Yes, even though Whirlpool is building things in America again. Imagine that.
But is there a threat rising that could undo all the good Whilrpool has accomplished so far? Rising health-care costs continue to be a hotly debated topic, and even legendary investor Warren Buffett called this trend "the tapeworm that's eating at American competitiveness." To learn more about what's happening to the health care system -- and how to potentially profit from this trend -- click here for free, immediate access.