It's earnings season, and as of Monday, almost half the companies in the S&P 500 had turned in their report cards. The positive earnings surprises in that group outnumber the negative surprises by 2.8:1 (Are you positively surprised?). In that context, missing your earnings estimate is like a new recruit slapping his army drill instructor -- you're going to get a beating.
So it went for Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick Jones Lang LaSalle (NYSE: JLL ) after the property services company announced yesterday that diluted earnings per share fell to $0.73, when analysts were expecting an EPS of $0.98. As I write this, the shares are off more than 15%. What's the good news? From the looks of the report, I don't think long-term investors have anything to worry about. The firm continues to execute on a sound strategy.
There's a lot going on at Jones Lang
It's tricky to make comparisons with respect to revenue and cost growth for this quarter because the company completed a significant number of acquisitions after the year-ago quarter. However, Jones Lang's CEO told investors on the conference call that the focus for now will be on integrating these acquisitions rather than making any new ones. Investors will want to monitor the company's success on that front during the coming quarters, as operations reach their steady state.
In any event, I wouldn't be overly focused on quarter-to-quarter fluctuations in this business. Jones Lang LaSalle has a terrific roster of large corporate clients, including Merrill Lynch (NYSE: MER ) , Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) , Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: JAVA ) , and Unisys (NYSE: UIS ) . As these and other companies seek to get the most value out of their office space, the company will be a prime beneficiary -- in the U.S. and in growth markets like China and India.
The stock looks attractive
Trading at 7.7 times estimated earnings for 2009 (and that's before yesterday's drop), Jones Lang LaSalle looks attractively priced on an absolute and a relative basis. Its closest rival, CB Richard Ellis Group (NYSE: CBG ) , trades at 8.8 times its estimate of 2009 earnings, despite the fact that it is expected to grow earnings per share at a lower rate over the next five years. Jones Lang LaSalle's price drop provides an extra incentive for patient, value-oriented investors.