When we last checked in with Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick FARO Technologies
Friday, the suffering stock reversed course and jumped 25%, making it one of the biggest movers of the day. What was the reason? More of the same good stuff that was ignored when it went spiraling downward in March.
The firm's first-quarter earnings report didn't seem to hold any big surprises, at least nothing that would shock the FARO faithful. The 57% year-over-year sales increase was old news, but the smaller-than-expected sequential decrease in margins got the credit for buoying investor confidence. Last quarter, CEO Simon Raab had warned -- gasp! -- that he was willing to take some lumps in the short term in order to position the firm for better performance in the long haul.
But the expected costs of ramping up the overseas sales teams don't seem to have materialized, or at least they weren't nearly as scary as some feared. Operating margins actually increased 4.1% since Q4 to 15.9%. With revenues at $21 million, that led to a bottom line of $0.20 per share for the quarter, a big 473% jump over last year's $0.04.
For the year, management continues to predict a 25%-30% sales increase, trickling down to earnings around $0.79 per share. That's 39% growth if you exclude last year's litigation gain. A share price around $23 today puts FARO on a forward P/E near 30, but this is one of those companies that defies most regular valuation metrics. First, the firm has a habit of underpromising and overdelivering.
Next, there's the future to consider. FARO has nearly half of a $200 million market (a market that looks poised to grow into the billions over the next decade). Leadership in an explosive growth field is always tough to value. Moreover, FARO's management is focused on long-term value and, as such, makes decisions -- like refusing to provide quarter-by-quarter guidance targets -- that drive short-term holders to tears. None of that should matter to Fools with their eyes on the real prize, but riders should fasten their seat belts.
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