First, I should warn that this column won't tell you how to buy yourself a Welsh earldom. What we're here to look at isn't aristocratic titles for sale, but Thursday's earnings report from Nobility Homes
Before we get to that, though, let's cover the basics. Nobility reported its Q2 2006 earnings yesterday morning. The company grew quarterly sales 7% and net profits per diluted share 12%. With the latter number coming in at $0.46, Nobility beat analyst estimates by a penny. On the downside, the company didn't do nearly as well this quarter as it did last quarter, when sales increase 19%, and profits 38%. Also disappointing was that both inventories and accounts receivable outpaced the quarter's middling sales growth, rising 36% and 31% year over year, respectively.
But now we get to the fun part: the CEO's comments. Reading over these yesterday, I got a real feeling of deja vu; yesterday's comments sounded an awful lot like what I reviewed, and quoted from, in preparing Wednesday's Foolish Forecast on Nobility's earnings. Which was surprising, considering how different last quarter was from this one.
And it was more than just a "feeling." In two paragraphs of text, CEO Terry Trexler said precisely the same things he said last quarter. Precisely as in "word for word." With the exception of 15 changes (I counted 'em), most of which involved changes such as switching "first quarter" to "second quarter," or updating the amount of cash Nobility has in the bank, Trexler used the exact same text he did last quarter. Once again, the manufactured-housing industry faced a "competitive and difficult environment." Raw materials used to build the housing continue to suffer "volatile pricing" that "fluctuated widely," and there remains "little price stability in sight."
But there was one change that looks noteworthy, and I think it's the reason that the shares are up 6% already as of this writing: "Primarily as a result of the increasing costs related to the Sarbanes-Oxley 404 compliance and the increasing costs of being a public company, the Board of Directors has approved the hiring of an investment banking firm to explore the strategic alternatives available for the Company." In other words, Nobility is for sale.
When read in conjunction with the firm's upping its share buyback program to 200,000 shares, its repurchase of 32,000 shares in Q2, its "odd-lot tender offer" to acquire the stakes of outside shareholders who own fewer than 100 shares each, and the CEO's control of 63% of the company's stock, these comments strongly suggest that Nobility is going to be leaving the public markets in the near future. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see it join fellow builder Clayton Homes within the Berkshire Hathaway
Rich isn't the only Fool with an interest in Nobility. Read Tim Beyers' thoughts on Nobility and similarly low-priced businesses like Encore Wire
Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above.