Anyone who's ever had to store their possessions in a storage unit knows how much of a pain it can be. Mobile Mini (NASDAQ:MINI) made waves among consumers with its mobile storage options, essentially bringing the storage unit to you rather than forcing you to transport your things to central locations for storage. Yet Mobile Mini also does a lot of business for the business sector, including both traditional storage as well as tank and pump products for energy companies.

Coming into Friday's third-quarter financial report, Mobile Mini investors wanted to see solid growth, and the company's results largely delivered on that promise. Yet as oil prices ease lower, some worry that one of Mobile Mini's key sources of business could lose strength, and that could spell a cyclical reversal for a stock that's recently been an extremely good performer.

Hand holding handle of metal storage container with Mobile Mini instruction placard attached.

Image source: Mobile Mini.

How Mobile Mini fared

Mobile Mini's third-quarter results were mixed in many people's eyes. Revenue was up about 10% to $149.7 million, which was slightly better than most of those following the stock had expected even though its pace of growth slowed from earlier in the year. Adjusted net income soared more than 60% to $19.1 million, producing adjusted earnings of $0.42 per share. That was $0.01 per share better than the consensus forecast among investors.

Looking at Mobile Mini's different segments, the company saw the best performance from its tank and pump solutions business. Just like we've seen in recent periods, the energy-related business dramatically outpaced the growth rate for its storage solutions division, with tank and pump solutions revenue climbing 22% year over year and nearly tripling the growth that Mobile Mini got from storage solutions. Adjusted pre-tax operating earnings for the tank and pump business was also impressive, rising more than 40% from the third quarter of 2017.

Nevertheless, storage solutions remains the main producer of sales and profits for Mobile Mini. Growth of nearly 8% on the top line resulted in an 18% jump in pre-tax operating earnings for the segment, and margin levels remains markedly better for the business than Mobile Mini saw in tank and pump solutions.

Fundamentally, Mobile Mini had a lot to celebrate. Average utilization for tank and pump solutions jumped more than 5.5 percentage points to 72.2%. In storage solutions, average units on rent were up 2.6%, sending utilization to 84.3%. Rental rates also climbed 2.4% year over year, and what Mobile Mini charged for new rentals rose a similar 2.3%.

CEO Erik Olsson marked the company's progress. "Third quarter results demonstrate that the process and infrastructure that we have put in place are producing the operational efficiencies and financial results we expected," Olsson said, and the CEO highlighted Mobile Mini's effectiveness in boosting margin levels to squeeze more profit from its revenue.

Can Mobile Mini keep moving forward?

Optimism at Mobile Mini continues to rise. Seasonal trends provided support for the storage solutions business in the third quarter, and Olsson sees those trends continuing into the fourth quarter as well. Positive economic indicators and a healthy pipeline of business point to sustained good times for Mobile Mini.

Yet investors seemed to focus more on the moves that Mobile Mini has made to divest itself of underperforming assets. Back in July, the company said that it would start looking to dispose of parts of its business that haven't generated any meaningful amount of revenue in recent years, and its efforts so far led to Mobile Mini posting a significant GAAP loss for the third quarter. Yet Mobile Mini said that it's only about 50% finished with the divestiture, and although the remaining assets are expected to get sold off by the end of the year, investors seem less excited by roughly $5 million to $7 million in annual operational savings from the move than they are concerned by the amount of time it's taking to get the job done.

Mobile Mini shareholders largely ignored the positives in the report, and the stock dropped 6% at midday Friday following the announcement. Long-term investors can take heart in the fact that the storage specialist's recent moves put it in better position fundamentally to grow in the future, but it could take time for the stock to follow suit.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.