Every day, Wall Street analysts upgrade some stocks, downgrade others, and "initiate coverage" on a few more. But do these analysts even know what they're talking about? Today, we're taking one high-profile Wall Street pick and putting it under the microscope...
Boeing (NYSE:BA) stock has soared 75% over the past year -- a nearly continuous rise from $134 last August to more than $230 a share today. But one analyst thinks Boeing could surprise investors with even more gains in the year to come. As investment banker Bernstein writes this morning in a note outlined on StreetInsider.com (requires subscription), Boeing has two initiatives underway that could drive further upside for Boeing stock. If just one of these projects works as planned, Boeing stock could soar to $300 a share -- and beyond.
Here are three things you need to know about that.
1. Services with a smile
Nearly one year ago, Boeing made a bold announcement: By 2025, the company would triple its airplane support and services sales, building a $50 billion annual business in less than a decade.
As Boeing said at the time, its plan was to "launch its third major business unit," known as "Boeing Global Services ... operating alongside Commercial Airplanes and Defense, Space & Security." Boeing Global Services would offer "Supply Chain, Engineering, Modifications & Maintenance, Digital Aviation & Analytics, and Training & Professional Services" to its airplane customers, helping airlines to "reduce costs, drive efficiency and ultimately optimize their operations."
Airplane services, said Boeing, would be worth "$2.6 trillion" over 10 years (so roughly $260 billion a year). In targeting $50 billion in annual revenue, Boeing was aiming to control nearly 20% of that market.
2. Margins make the manufacturer
That was an ambitious goal (to say the least). But Boeing wasn't done thinking big just yet. Not content to just grow revenue, Boeing wanted to grow the profit margins it makes on that revenue, too.
As I pointed out last week, Boeing is currently pulling down operating profit margins of 9.6% -- an all-time high for the company. But management isn't content with that. By 2020, Boeing is targeting 50% better margin than it earns today -- 15% operating profit margins. Bernstein thinks the company can do maybe 12.5%, and has predicated its $274 price target on that assumption. But, says Bernstein, if Boeing can somehow grow its operating profit margin to 15%, as it intends, then the company would earn so much profit as to justify a price target of as much as $317 a share -- 36% higher than where Boeing stock trades today.
3. What it means to investors
So what's the upshot of all this? Bernstein likes Boeing stock a lot already. Just like me, Bernstein has a buy rating on Boeing stock. (You can view my stock ratings here, on Motley Fool CAPS.) In fact, Bernstein has maintained its outperform rating on Boeing since June 2012. Thus Bernstein cannot actually upgrade Boeing stock any higher than it already has.
Additionally, Bernstein already has a price target on Boeing stock that's 18% higher than where the stock trades today. But as the analyst explains in its argument, Boeing stock could potentially rise twice as far as Bernstein is predicting it will -- and that's if Boeing only succeeds in growing margins. If Boeing also succeeds in building a $50 billion services business, then it's conceivable Boeing stock could go up even more.
How much more is hard to say -- but here's one thing I'm sure of: With $11 billion in annual free cash flow and a market capitalization of only $136.7 billion, Boeing stock today sells for just 12.4 times its annual cash profits. With minimal net debt to cloud the issue, Boeing stock is still a bargain -- and it's going up.