I'll hand it to Steelcase
For the third quarter, Steelcase reported that sales rose more than 11%, though the number is more like 9% when you exclude some non-organic items. Still, 17.4% growth in North America is nothing to sneeze at, and management seems to feel that the various economic signs point to ongoing opportunities for the company.
Results below the top line also showed some improvement. As-reported gross margin rose by nearly two full points, and the operating margin improved considerably from last year as operating income more than quintupled. Net income comparisons are blurred by some charges and benefits in the two respective quarters. But the bottom line is that Steelcase is back in the black and has been for several straight quarters now.
While the company has come a long way from its nadir, I believe there's still room for improvement. Its margins are below those of the aforementioned competitors, and management has established a heady (but achievable) target of 10% for operating margin. What's more, with economic growth in Japan and China (to say nothing of North America as well), the demand picture is such that Steelcase should be able to continue to post real growth, even if the comps are about to get tougher.
Good turnaround stories can be tough to spot, tough to value, and tough to hold on to for long stretches of time. After all, it goes against a lot of what we're taught to look for as investors. Nevertheless, I'm often struck by the fact that when turnarounds work, they sometimes really work. I honestly don't know whether Steelcase will prove to be one of those huge success stories, but I wouldn't be in any rush to sell these shares just yet.
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).