When manufactured housing maker Champion
After all, as we discussed Oct. 17, analysts had tossed their chicken bones and upended their tea cups earlier in the quarter, and generally agreed that anything less than $0.21 in profits per share would be unacceptable. As a rule, when a company makes the mistake of "missing by a penny" (or two pence, depending on your frame of reference), investors' reaction is pretty predictable. This Fool, however, failed to predict that investors would bid Champion's shares up by 4% on Oct. 19.
What put buyers in such a forgiving mood? Let's study Champion's numbers to find out.
There were several good numbers in Champion's earnings release, especially the year-over-year gains in both sales and revenue. In comparison to Q3 2004, sales grew 21% this quarter -- a marked increase over the 19% pace of sales growth year to date. The company's inventory situation also improved dramatically, falling from $124 million one year ago to just $99 million by Oct. 1. If investors read only those numbers, I'd not only commend them for ignoring the earnings miss, but also endorse their logic in bidding up Champion's shares. Alas, the release contained several other numbers that were less praiseworthy.
For example, accounts receivable grew nearly half again as fast as sales did -- up 30% year over year. The firm's cost of sales grew 23% in Q3, far outpacing its rate of growth earlier this year; year to date, cost of sales has grown only 18%. Sales, as well as general and administrative costs, fared similarly -- an 18% year-over-year rise vs. a more modest 13% increase year to date. On the bottom line, these ballooning costs kept Champion's commendable 43% year-over-year net profit growth from more closely matching its 60% year-to-date improvement.
In ordinary situations, I wouldn't think that kind of trend bodes well for a company. Then again, with Champion reportedly running its factories full tilt to keep up with FEMA orders for temporary housing, this is anything but an ordinary situation. For investors' sakes, we can only hope that the extra business provided by federal buyers will help to reverse the trend that began building in Q3.
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Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares in Champion.