Looking for a sexy business? Then take it from me -- food distribution is not for you.
With fierce competition and tight margins, survival depends on having a low-cost, high-efficiency supply chain. Profits are ground out a penny at a time. That's why most of the remaining companies in this industry are large, and in most cases very tightly managed.
At $6 billion annual revenues, Performance Food Group
For Foolish investors unfamiliar with the company, it opened its doors in 1925 and serves two distinct market segments. The "customized segment" services large restaurant chains including Ruby Tuesday
Second-quarter sales grew 8%, with 3% coming from higher case volume and 5% from price inflation. Sales growth in the customized segment was 4.5%, with the broadline segment notching just over 10% in revenue gain. The company has recently picked up O'Charley's
Operating profit grew 7%, a tad slower than sales. On a rate basis it rounded to the same 1.5% as the prior year -- I told you this wasn't a high-margin business. EPS of $0.37 per share grew 6% over the prior year's $0.35, slightly better than analyst expectations.
The balance sheet is solid. Inventories grew a measly 1.7% year over year. As you would expect from a conservative, tightly managed company, debt is virtually non-existent at 1.2% of total capitalization. Free cash flow was $7.6 million.
While this industry is not for everyone, it offers a potential safe haven during volatile markets. People will continue to eat, after all. The value doesn't look particularly compelling with a P/E ratio more than 20 times trailing-twelve-month earnings and a PEG ratio of 1.5x. But Performance Food Group is growing at a solid upper-single-digit clip, above the industry average. And don't forget this industry is seeing some consolidation. Warren Buffett bought McLane's from Wal-Mart
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Fool contributor Timothy M. Otte samples organic fare from Dallas. He welcomes comments on his articles, and owns stock in Wal-Mart, but none of the other companies mentioned in this article. The Fool has a disclosure policy.