It may not seem like it right now, but Friday brought the best of all possible worlds to investors in Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection Shuffle Master
Granted, the stock has fallen 5% in the wake of its fiscal fourth-quarter and year-end earnings report, released late on Thursday. But that had considerably less to do with the blockbuster numbers that Shuffle Master threw down than with the "downgrade" that investment bank Bear Stearns
Shuffle Master simply nailed its fiscal fourth-quarter results, turning in 30% sales growth and a 33% increase in earnings over fiscal Q4 2005. What's more, after all of the quarterly rounding of net profits into per-share profits is said and done, the company also hit its own, and analysts', earnings target of $0.81 per diluted share for the fiscal year. And Shuffle Master would have done even better, beating both estimates with earnings of $0.83, but for a $1 million asset write-off.
That's not to say Bear Stearns' bearish stance is entirely baseless. It's not.
As I mentioned last week, Shuffle Master has some serious work ahead of it. It's preparing to assume an additional $50 million in debt to finance its acquisition of Australian gaming concern Stargames. Judging from Shuffle Master's earnings release, progress on this front has been slow in coming. The company's long-term debt is unchanged since three months ago, and it's up slightly from the year-ago quarter. Cash and equivalents have declined by $18 million since July. Meanwhile, cash generation has flagged as both inventories and accounts receivable grew at roughly twice the rate of sales.
Granted, the company hasn't been frittering its money away. Over the past year, it's spent freely to buy back 1.5 million shares of its stock -- 715,000 shares in fiscal Q4 alone. But that repurchasing spree has cost its cash hoard dearly, even as the Stargames acquisition is looming large.
Shuffle Master still looks great on its income statement. But if it's to keep the growth story growing, it really needs to focus on shoring up its balance sheet.
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Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position, long or short, in any company named above.