Despite shaky consumer confidence going into the holiday retail season, Spectrum Brands (NYSE: SPB ) thinks that its divisions' batteries, small appliances, personal care products, hardware and home improvement solutions, and pet products will remain at the top of consumer shopping lists. Can this company come out at the top of investors' picks as well?
When if reported record second quarter earnings in August, the company said it expects a banner year for its fiscal 2013, the results of which are to be announced in late November. Spectrum Brands also believes that this growth momentum will be carried forward into fiscal 2014.
Bull points to ponder
There are strong reasons for investors to go along with this bullish stance. Firstly, most of the products in the Spectrum Brands portfolio are non-discretionary items that are needed for comfortable modern living. Most are everyday-use products that need constant household replenishment. The company markets these products both in the U.S. and globally as value-for-money choices or same-for-less alternatives. This tactic allows its key brands to thrive and occupy top market positions in their particular segments, even in a tough selling environment.
A second positive point is the drive at Spectrum Brands to beef up its balance sheet, something that has been identified as a weakness for the company. For the 2013 fiscal year that ended on Sep. 30, the company said that it achieved its target to repay term debt by a $200 million minimum; this lowered the cost of capital and reduced cash interest expenses. Over the long term, its goal is to maintain a total leverage ratio in the 2.5 to 3.5 times range.
The company's board also approved a new stock repurchase program of $200 million over the next 24 months. This reflects Spectrum Brands' confidence in its future earnings growth and the strength of its cash flow generation.
Fast integration paying off
A fruitful record of acquisitions and the successful integration of the acquired companies into the Spectrum Brands' business model is another reason for investors to add the company to their portfolio. One of the recent successes was the Hardware & Home Improvement (HHI) Group, which Spectrum Brands acquired from Stanley Black & Decker (NYSE: SWK ) in late 2012 for $1.4 billion in cash.
For the third quarter of 2013, sales from the HHI acquisition rose 13%. This represents the second consecutive quarter of double-digit gains for the unit. Proceeding ahead of schedule, this integration is projected to create "$10 million of synergies in the first two calendar years."
Stanley needs a quick look
Stanley Black & Decker needs a similarly rewarding integration synergy, and quick. It used part of the HHI sale proceeds to fund its Infastech acquisition in February with the intention of integrating the company into its engineered fastening business. Some analysts are concerned about Stanley's continuous acquisitions, however, as it is still integrating larger past acquisitions.
The company has also been giving off negative vibes in recent weeks following its sharply-lowered 2013 earnings guidance. The negative factors cited for the retreat were tepid security segment sales, weak international growth, and the impact of the U.S. government shutdown.
Priority on home improvement
This negativity is in contrast with the upbeat mood at Spectrum Brands, which expects almost all of its divisions to post top-line growth in the fourth quarter as compared to the previous year. Both 10% sales growth and EBIDTA growth are reachable for HHI, the company said.
The bright outlook for HHI apparently draws its sheen from the resilient recovery of the housing sector and the continued rise in construction spending. With the housing sector's turnaround, it is indeed reasonable to expect that spending on home maintenance and improvement will take prominence in consumers' discretionary purchases.
Bellwether at the retail level
One good indicator of this trend is The Home Depot (NYSE: HD ) . This giant hardware and home improvement retailer has been consistently recording better-than-expected quarterly results this year. For the second quarter, Home Depot reported a $1.8 billion second quarter profit on sales that rose 9.5% to $22.5 billion.
In reporting these results in August, the home improvement retailer raised its guidance. It now sees its full-year earnings per share coming in at $3.60, up by nearly 20% from the prior forecast of $3.52.
There's wisdom in investors including Spectrum Brands in their shopping list of equities in the consumer goods sector despite stiff market headwinds. Its product brands rank among the top household essentials that consumers buy not only in the US, but globally as well.
Moreover, the company has a reinvigorated balance sheet and has embarked on a new stock repurchase program. Its knack for making the right acquisitions and successfully integrating argue in favor of this company's future growth as well.
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