Sometimes you find yourself wanting to like a stock, and that can be a little dangerous. Such is the case with me and International Flavors & Fragrances
I've paid attention to this company off and on over the years because there are a lot of appealing aspects: It's a dull, but profitable, business that people never think about, but really can't live without. The danger, though, is in goosing a number here or there or getting too caught up in ratio-based analysis and slipping a bit with your pricing discipline. And that's dangerous here because this is the kind of stock that will treat you well if you buy it right, but if you overpay you're looking for trouble.
The company's results weren't stellar for the first quarter, but at a minimum they were stable. Sales were down 2%, as reported, but up 3% in constant currency terms, and the company does a fair bit of its business overseas. Overall fragrance sales (which make up a little more than half the total) were down, but fine fragrances were up a bit. And on the flavors side, sales were flat this quarter.
On a more encouraging note, gross margins improved compared with a year ago and with the fourth quarter. And though this only resulted in 2% net income growth at the bottom line, small growth is better than no growth.
As I see it, the board of directors has a real opportunity here. International Flavors & Fragrances is searching for a new CEO, and the right person could re-energize this business. After all, companies like Procter & Gamble
The good news is that the business appears stable and the stock is a little bit undervalued by my calculations. The bad news is that I'm not in the habit of buying in to stocks that are just "a little bit" cheap. Give me a bigger cushion between fair value and present value and maybe I finally buy International Flavors & Fragrances, but for now I'm content to watch and wait.
For more sweet-smelling Foolishness:
Kraft is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation; Coca-Cola is an Inside Value recommendation. The Fool has a newsletter for almost every type of investor.
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).