A near-monopoly is great. A near-monopoly in a business that most people don't even think about is even better.
Such would seem to be the case for Forward Air
From the looks of it, though, Forward Air didn't quite manage to deliver the goods that Wall Street had ordered. Revenue was up 15%, but still a bit shy of analyst expectations. Likewise on the bottom line for earnings per share, even if you add back the cost of accelerated stock option vesting.
Still, the basis of the business appears to be intact. The core airport-to-airport business saw revenue rise 19% on a low-teens increase in tonnage and a high single-digit increase in the average revenue per pound shipped. That suggests to this Fool that less-than-expected growth in the logistics business (as opposed to haulage) might have been a culprit for this quarter's sluggishness.
On the whole, I have mixed feelings about this stock. I love what the company does, and I love that there's barely any competition in the sector (despite would-be rival Kitty Hawk's
But there are things here that I'm not so keen on. A cash flow-based valuation suggests that the stock is rather expensive. Further, I'm not exactly thrilled at the paucity of financial data provided -- no cash flow statement and only a stubby little condensed balance sheet doesn't quite satisfy me.
Still, here you have a profitable and lucrative near-monopoly run by a management team with a demonstrated history of price discipline and cash flow generation. I won't bet against the company further strengthening its hold on this profitable shipping niche, but I also won't be betting on the stock unless I see it trading at a better price relative to its free cash flow.
Further Foolishness on demand:
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).
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