Shares of Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS) took a beating today because the 3-D printing company released its 2014 full-year-earnings guidance below analyst expectations, sending shares down as much as 12% during the session. While this may seem like troubling news for Stratasys investors, it's quite welcomed news for the Foolish long-term investor.
What went wrong
For 2014, Stratasys expects to earn $660 million-$680 million in revenue, which represents an increase of roughly 40% over 2013's expected results, and is also above the $656 million in revenue analysts are expecting. It was the company's earnings-per-share guidance that made the stock's wheels fall off. Analysts were expecting full-year earnings per share to come in around $2.33, but Stratasys only expects to earn between $2.15 and $2.25 in adjusted earnings per share. To put this miss in perspective, the midpoint of $2.20 per share means that Stratasys' earnings estimate was only off by less than 6% from the analyst consensus.
When missing is good
Stratasys missed analyst expectations because the company would rather reinvest into its business than show more profits in the short term. As a result, Stratasys anticipates that its operating expenses will rise significantly – primarily driven by increased investments in sales and marketing initiatives, as well as higher R&D spending to support new product development and innovation.
In addition, Stratasys plans on spending between $50 million and $70 million in capital expenditures, which includes "significant investments" to build out its manufacturing capacity – a healthy sign for future expected growth. In other words, Stratasys is working to solidify its long-term positioning and the market is punishing it.
Two bright spots
As investors fixate on the headline story that Stratasys lowered its guidance, they seem to be overlooking the fact that the company is beginning to realize synergies from its merger with Objet, and its recent MakerBot acquisition is performing beyond expectations. Stratasys expects its organic growth rate, which adjusts out acquisitions, to be at 25% for the year, and MakerBot will be accretive to earnings by the end of the year. The organic growth rate is particular encouraging, considering the 3-D printing industry is expected to grow at around 19.3% a year through 2021, becoming a $10.8 billion industry. Based on these figures, investors can expect Stratasys to gain market share in the year ahead.
Putting it in perspective
This is what today's decline looks like compared to the last two years of Stratasys' stock performance:
Because Stratasys' valuation is stretched on paper, any negative divergence from its lofty growth expectations can result in stock swings like we're experiencing today. However, when you think it about it from a long-term perspective, today's decline is merely a blip.
Sticking with winning management teams
I always find it amusing when Wall Street punishes a company for wanting to invest in its own long-term-success story. If a business is only focused on playing the short-term game of meeting and exceeding Wall Street's expectations, it would often have to make trade-offs that could ultimately end up hurting its long-term potential. In the eyes of a Foolish investor, Stratasys' decision to reinvest into its business is a positive development because it shows that management remains more dedicated to the longer-term success of its business than pleasing Wall Street.
At the end of the day, lowering earnings guidance is not the same as lowering its revenue outlook – a sign that could often spell trouble. Today's stock plunge may feel painful, but in a decade from now, this may feel like just another bump in the road for a company with the right forward-looking focus.
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