Seeing GeoEye Clearly

Big news for GeoEye (Nasdaq: GEOY  ) investors! Yesterday, the photographer from outer space announced that it has inked a multiyear contract with Mitsubishi, as a result of which Mitsubishi's Japan Space Imaging will [   ...   ] "collect and sell Earth imagery and related products from the GeoEye-1 satellite."

Um, wait a minute
Wondering what's missing between those brackets up above, are you? Well, pardon the pun, but "good eye." The missing words there would be "continue to." As in, GeoEye already has a decade-long history of selling its satellite images through Mitsubishi. In other words, yesterday's news wasn't news at all -- just confirmation that this relationship remains intact.

So?
So why did GeoEye's stock leap nearly 9% on the announcement? That probably comes comes from investors not reading the press release quite carefully enough. Don't blame the company, though. CEO Matthew O'Connell said it plain as day: "GeoEye is delighted to be extending its 10-year business relationship with Mitsubishi Corporation." [Emphasis added.] Unless there were serious doubts that Mitsubishi would extend its contract with GeoEye -- and I'm aware of none -- it seems to me that the 9% jump was unjustified.

Or at least not justified by the news, per se. There is still the little matter of valuation to consider. You see, uncertainty as to when GeoEye will get its new GeoEye-1 satellite in the air continues to weigh heavily on this stock. The continued hemming and hawing by Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) and Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT  ) , who are responsible for putting GeoEye-1 in orbit, and the fact that the satellite is still in testing at a General Dynamics (NYSE: GD  ) facility, have GeoEye's stock trading at an obvious discount.

Foolish takeaway
Even after yesterday's price spike, we're looking at is a company expected to grow its earnings at 20% per year (in the estimation of the single analyst who follows the stock), yet priced at just 10 times trailing earnings, and 14 times free cash flow. By any measure, that seems a conservative price, and in this Fool's opinion, it's a much better reason to buy the stock than yesterday's piece of non-news news.


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