A rising tide lifts all boats, and with the market regularly closing at record levels, it's not hard to find stocks that are also doing well. But zeroing in on companies that are performing well because business is good, and not just floating higher thanks to an elevated stock market, is more difficult.
Below are three companies that have seen their stocks double in value or more. Read on to discover why Ferrari (NYSE:RACE), Maui Land & Pineapple (NYSE:MLP), and Tronox (NYSE:TROX) have soared in the last 12 months, and whether they've benefited from macroeconomic factors or their own improving fortunes.
Ferrari (up 105.6%)
Shares of Ford and GM might be falling because of an uncertain outlook for car sales, but the stock of luxury sports carmaker Ferrari is racing ahead. The stock has doubled in value over the past year as its profitability has improved and sales of its supercars gained traction.
Naturally, Ferrari's target consumer is one with a much higher level of disposable income, and the economic uncertainty that may affect sales of more mundane vehicles from its rivals doesn't hurt it. That also allows Ferrari to report profit margins well in excess of the auto industry.
Yet by ramping up production and selling more vehicles, Ferrari needs to be careful of making its vehicles too ubiquitous, which would mean risking losing the cachet they hold. Plenty of upscale companies have hurt their image by making themselves too commonplace. Tiffany, Coach, and others have seen their brands suffer when their products were seen as things any mall rat could afford.
You won't find Ferrari with quite the same problem, but if it becomes the me-too car -- hey, I got a Ferrari. Oh yeah? Me too! -- it could see its popularity as an aspirational car decline. But at 36 times earnings and more than four-and-a-half times sales, Ferrari's stock is sporting a premium almost as big as the price tag on its cars. Its business might be improving, but like its cars, its stock might not be for everyone.
Maui Land & Pineapple (up 154.8%)
Despite its name, pineapples have nothing to do with Maui Land & Pineapple, other than a lot of the real estate it owns sits on former pineapple fields -- at least not currently. The financial collapse 10 years ago produced significant farming losses and brought it to the brink of ruin. Today, it primarily operates the Kapalua Resort in a Maui, a 900-acre world-class destination resort and residential community, and two utilities that provide potable water and wastewater treatment to Kapalua. It owns approximately 23,000 acres of land in total on Maui.
The resort operator has subsisted largely by selling off assets over the years, and it traded in the low single-digits until early this year, when it sold off some property that moved it to within $1.2 million of eliminating its debt. The market has rewarded the stock by bidding its shares up into the double-digits, and last month, it reported an operating profit of $5.9 million versus a $777,000 loss a year ago.
Maui Land & Pineapple still needs to prove it can operate profitably without big land sales, and though it has tripled in value over the past year (mostly in just the past few months), these are gains that might not hold.
Tronox (up 305.1%)
There's no whitewashing the fact the chemicals industry, particularly for titanium dioxide, has been hot. After years of a weak pricing environment, TiO2 producers were able to start raising prices last year that helped bolster the bottom line. This year, it appears consolidation is the next wave taking over the industry as Huntsman, the fourth biggest producer of TiO2, just got acquired by Clariant for $13.8 billion; paint and chemicals giant AkzoNobel has been fending off a takeover attempt by PPG Industries; and Tronox said it would buy the TiO2 business of rival Cristal for $1.7 billion.
TiO2 is the whitest stuff on Earth, and is used in everything from sunscreen and toothpaste to food coloring and vehicle coatings. Milk is whitened with it; it's found in Oreo cookie creme, and paint is a particularly heavy user of the pigment.
The Tronox acquisition will catapult the specialty chemicals leader into "the world's largest and most highly integrated TiO2 pigment producer with assets and operations on six continents," which will allow it to double its profits in the first year after the deal closes.
Better industry conditions, a concentration of resources into fewer hands, the leading position in the industry, and the promise of higher profits have all helped to quadruple Tronox's stock price from under $5 a share a year to more than $18 today for a better than 300% gain, but there's hope for future gains. At 25 times next year's estimates and 15 times the free cash flow it produces, Tronox isn't a bargain-basement stock, but it's not overpriced yet and still may have some mileage on it.