Shares of Ball Corp.
If you read our coverage of Ball's Q3 results, today's news will look pretty familiar. The 2002 acquisition of a European packaging operation is paying off handsomely, while the company's aerospace division has grown into a powerhouse producer responsible for more than 10% of overall revenues and operating profits.
All told, Ball reported full-year sales of $4.98 billion, up from $3.86 billion in 2002. That boiled down to net income of $230 million, up 47% from 2002 (both years' income included charges).
Warm weather in Europe helped demand for beverages in 2003, and the company now plans to build a plant in Belgrade in order to serve demand for beverage cans in Southern Europe and Northern Africa. Aerospace won some key contracts -- including a high-profile spot on the Mars rover. The U.S. packaging business wasn't as strong, as operating earnings fell for the year (though they finished higher for the fourth quarter).
All this translates into powerful free cash flows for Ball, which turned in an impressive $365 million figure in 2003. That's expected to fall in 2004 as the company builds its new plant and reduces debt. Even so, the broad success of Ball's highest-profile initiatives in recent years makes it easy to trust management's judgment in the long term: Ball shares have crushed the S&P 500 over the last 10 years.
Talk about whether you think Ball will stay on a roll on our Ball discussion board.
Dave Marino-Nachison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.