It's been two years since hedge fund manager Bill Ackman touted Fortune Brands Home & Security (NYSE: FBHS) as a sleeper pick on the pending housing revival, and the company continues to perform -- long after Ackman exited his position. The spinoff of Fortune Brands (now Beam) released earnings this week that delighted the Street -- showing that its core brands are still benefiting from a hot housing environment. On a fundamental level, much of FBHS' appeal still stands from when Ackman made his case for the stock, though the valuations have shifted. Here's what you need to know about this compelling play on housing.
Reminder and recap
Fortune Brands Home & Security is the company behind some very recognizable home goods names -- Master Lock, Simonton Windows, Moen, and more. New home and commercial construction projects are helping send the company higher and higher -- a thesis first put forth by Ackman in fall 2011. The stock has been on a vertical trajectory since September 2011 -- up well above the 200% mark in slightly more than two years.
The most recent quarter showed continued cause for celebration, as the company posted a 58.6% gain in earnings to $0.46 per share. Wall Street analysts had been expecting $0.41 per share. Net sales rose an impressive but less drastic 23.8% to $1.13 billion, again above analyst estimates. None of the company's segments dragged on earnings -- each delivered double-digit sales growth in the quarter.
Kitchen and bath cabinetry sales rose 36%, plumbing and accessories gained 22%, and windows and door systems grew 14%. Home security posted 14% gains.
Through the first nine months of the year, Fortune Brands generated $154.4 million in free cash flow. For the full year, management expects about $300 million in FCF, giving the company a current P/FCF of 23.6 times -- not what one would call cheap.
Looking ahead, the company expects to see sales grow in the range of 15%-16%, up from 13%-15%.
It's been nothing but good news for Fortune Brands, but is it too late for investors to get in on the action?
At more than 22 times forward earnings and with other seemingly rich valuations, it's tough to advise a buy on the stock from a value perspective. Sales will certainly continue their impressive growth on the back of a housing rebound that, by historical standards, still leaves much room for a big boost in new housing starts. However, the market has caught wind of this and has priced the optimism into Fortune Brands' stock.
Growth investors who believe in the strength of Fortune's various lines (it does have some of the biggest names in their respective product categories) may still want to take a closer look at the stock. The balance sheet is increasingly immaculate, and management is using the cash flows to pay down the remaining $300 million in debt. If valuation is not an immediate concern, a long-term investment in Fortune Brands is one that will mimic the long-term growth of the U.S. economy.
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