WD-40's product line is a who's who of cleaners and solvents. In addition to the namesake WD-40, it also makes Lava soap, X-14, Carpet Fresh, and several others. The company also devotes energy to providing an excellent customer service resource on its website.
When the company went public in 1973, WD-40 was the only product and growth was very good for years. Starting in 1995, the company began to evolve by buying other brands in an effort to grow. Too many acquisitions can be difficult to digest and have caused problems for WD-40.
I think it's difficult to assess a company like this by just looking at metrics. You have plenty of good numbers, like a trailing 12-month price-to-earnings ratio of 18 that is at a significant discount to the group, or a return on equity of 25%. Oh, and I almost forgot that WD-40 has a 2.88% dividend yield, but the dividend has been cut three times this decade. It's not all roses, though. WD-40 also has a price/book ratio of 4 and a price/sales ratio of 2.
The stock used to beat the consumer stock group handily. That track record has been much spottier since management got the acquisition bug 10 years ago. According to the company's website and annual report, there will be more acquisitions. Digesting new purchases has caused less than steady earnings growth. Needing to grow this way should be a red flag.
I personally buy into the theory that the market can tell us what it thinks about a stock. In the last 10 years, WD-40 has badly lagged the Standard & Poor's Small Cap Index and the Morgan Stanley Consumer Index. Message received loud and clear.
I don't think there is a solvent around to clean up this poor performance.
Fool contributor Roger Nusbaum is an investment manager and wildland firefighter in Prescott, Ariz. At press time, neither he nor his clients owned any of the stocks mentioned. He does have two cans of WD-40 and some Carpet Fresh laying around the house.