Think Green to Make Green

When you think of trash-hauling services, the largest hauler in the land would like you to think green. The tagline invokes both the color of the company's truck fleet and its environmental ethos. As the market share leader in a sector that should offer resiliency through a bear market, Waste Management (NYSE: WMI  ) also gives investors a third reason to think green: making green.

Let's drive right into the company's second-quarter earnings for a closer look. Waste Management beat analyst projections by reporting $0.63 per share versus an estimate of $0.59 per share in net income. The company also reported a 5.9% decrease in net earnings, from $338 million in the year-ago quarter to $318 million this time. However, after adjusting for one-time tax benefits and asset sales that padded 2007 second-quarter results, net earnings actually rose 12.5% per diluted share. Revenue rose 3.9% to $3.49 billion.

Given the momentous rise in diesel fuel costs during the quarter -- as echoed in earnings results from UPS (NYSE: UPS  ) -- the increase of 20 basis points in Waste Management's operating margin to 18.1% is an impressive feat. Management attributes the success to strong price increases, fuel surcharges, and higher commodity prices for materials recycled from waste.

Waste Management is skilled at getting the most out of your garbage. Through subsidiary Wheelabrator Technologies, the company operates 16 waste-to-energy facilities that convert solid waste to electricity through incineration. All told, the efforts yield enough electricity to power 900,000 homes.

Metal in the waste stream is as precious as energy these days, and Waste Management sells scrap metal for an additional revenue boost. Metal recyclers like Commercial Metals (NYSE: CMC  ) and Sims Group (NYSE: SMS  ) have performed well in this environment of higher commodity prices, and Waste Management enjoys a sliver of that pie as well.

In a sector resilient in the face of market cycles, Waste Management is a frugal giant that will strive to see value in every ton of garbage we throw its way. Apparently, shareholders of No. 2 hauler Republic Services (NYSE: RSG  ) -- including 15.6% stakeholder BGI, which also manages the assets of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust -- feel that Waste Management was overly frugal with its $34-per-share offer to acquire Republic. Republic is swallowing a poison pill in an attempt to ward off Waste Management's bid. Republic Services itself is embroiled in a bid to acquire No. 3 hauler Allied Waste (NYSE: AW  ) . Amid the drama, all three are sliding into bargain territory, although I continue to view Waste Management as the best-smelling heap.

Further Foolishness:

Republic Services is a Motley Fool Income Investor stock pick, while Waste Management is a selection of the Inside Value newsletter. Take any of the Fool's newsletters for a free 30-day test-drive and we'll show you how to find value and income in the markets.

Fool contributor Christopher Barker captains yachts and writes about stocks. He can be found in the Motley Fool CAPS community under the username TMFSinchiruna. He owns no shares in the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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