Earlier this month, I waxed bullishly about recent Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (Nasdaq: GMCR ) . The company behind the popular Keurig single-cup java brewing systems is growing quickly, but not everyone is convinced that the stock is a winner.
The best thing about our decision to open up comment boxes at the end of our articles is that you often get some stimulating perspectives from both the bullish and the bearish camps of a particular stock.
Reader reggidmalc chimed in on the bullish side:
Green Mountain is a Peter Lynch winner based on personal experience ...we have 3 Keurigs in our B&B and the guests love them. Great brewer and great coffees, teas and hot chocolate. Oh, and by the way a low capital, razorblade business model. Imagine how they will grow when the Tully's/West Coast market comes on stream.
Whereas kurtdabear checked in with a bearish thesis:
GMCR stock will probably do more to keep you awake nights over the next few years than their coffee will. They have an astronomical PE, no dividend, and trade at many multiples of book value. On top of that, a score of insiders have recently bailed out of nearly a million shares. More than likely, the reason the stock is sitting at a 52-week high is that it's in a short squeeze since over half the float is currently being shorted.
And what about that booming business? With travel diminishing, hotel rooms going vacant, offices and plants closing, lay-offs rising, and commercial vacancies skyrocketing, how fast do you think their commercial receipts are going to be growing?
Also, with high-end retail and luxury purchases tanking even among well-off consumers, how much growth do you think they're going to see in their retail machines and products?
Anyone planning to make money on this stock had better be voting with the short-sellers.
I disagree with "da bear"
Since I'm a bull on the company, I felt vindicated by the bullish perspective from a bed-and-breakfast owner who swears by the machines. I also felt respectfully challenged by the bearish angle.
It's worth a response, so let me have at it.
Let's tackle the valuation arguments first. Does Green Mountain pack an "astronomical" earnings multiple? It's relative. Yes, Green Mountain is trading at 40 times this fiscal year's projected profitability of $1.31 a share, but it's also growing its bottom line at a 50% clip on an annual basis. Look out to fiscal 2010 (which starts in October) and the forward earnings multiple falls to 31.
This also assumes that Green Mountain simply meets expectations. It has handily beaten analyst expectations in each of the past four quarters, and by 19% to 33% in the three most recent periods. Clearly, Wall Street is underestimating the company's earnings power.
As for the lack of a dividend, it doesn't sway me. Some of the greatest growth stocks, such as Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) , don't pay out quarterly distributions. Even the java bellwether Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX ) -- the company that Green Mountain is crushing with its convenient and cost-effective brews -- doesn't squeeze out a dividend.
Green Mountain also commands a steep price-to-book value ratio, but that is no surprise. It's a lean cash-generating machine that collects royalties on every K-Cup sold from third-party coffee companies such as Diedrich Coffee (Nasdaq: DDRX ) . It doesn't need a "mountain" of assets.
Kurtdabear is concerned about the insider selling at Green Mountain, but this has always been the case. Executive compensation is based largely on stock options, and officers have had a habit of cashing out for years. The fact that the stock recently hit an all-time high despite years of insider selling should tell you how effective an indicator short-selling is with this company.
He also feels that a short squeeze is behind the stock's run, but I dismiss that. There are 9.7 million shares sold short as of the end of March, more than double the shares held short a year ago. If anything, we have yet to see the short squeeze. When it comes, it will be an even meatier rally.
Finally, he is concerned about the recession's impact on the company. He is right that travel is dwindling and that offices are laying off employees. All these factors do is provide impetus to the multiplication of Keurig machines, as they spread from office break rooms to individual home units. I should know. I've had a Keurig at home for nearly two years.
The K-Cups cost less than $0.40 apiece, essentially the price of a can of your typical soda from Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO ) , but with higher perceived value. It is not a coincidence that during last year's horrific holiday season for retailers Green Mountain moved 711,000 K-Cup brewers, a 121% spike over the previous year's quarter.
So not only are folks buying Keurig machines as a cheaper alternative to heading out to Starbucks, but the company should have amazing built-in demand for K-Cup refills over the next several quarters.
So I want to thank "kurtdabear" for the inspiring bearish argument. As an investor, you will always learn more from those who disagree with you than those who agree. However, I stand just where I began.
Starbucks may still have some fans, but not me: