The numbers look sound
Revenues increased 4% year over year, and customer assets grew 7%. Net income growth wasn't strong, but it was positive -- though barely, at 1%. The company reduced its shares outstanding through buybacks, which boosted earnings-per-share growth to 5%.
Although the number of customer trades per account declined by 6%, management assured investors that this was solely a function of "market environment" and that it had seen "absolutely no degradation at all in terms of the quality of [our] new accounts." The other operational numbers the company provided looked sound.
In a brutal stock market, optionsXpress, which focuses on enabling retail investors to trade options, still looks good. Option strategies that benefit from increased volatility become more attractive, and investors may be more willing to consider hedging their stock portfolios.
optionsXpress has an appetite
On the M&A front, the company closed an acquisition of Open E Cry, a futures broker for institutional investors. CEO David Fisher said the company is looking at a number of other opportunities, too. I wonder whether thinkorswim
It's true that optionsXpress' purchasing currency -- its stock -- has also weakened this year, to the tune of nearly 30%. There's also no debating that the debt market isn't very accommodating right now.
Would I invest in optionsXpress?
At a forward price-to-earnings ratio of 13.6, shares don't look expensive for a business with high margins and good growth prospects. The stock may offer a good alternative to bottom-fishing among broker-dealers such as Lehman Brothers
But as a potential investor, I'd want to verify whether options accounts are as stable as equity accounts. (I don't think they are, although at this stage in the industry's development, that may not be critical.) In any case, optionsXpress doesn't look like an extreme buying opportunity. There are enough higher-quality names on sale in other sectors to keep me busy for now.
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Alex Dumortier, CFA, has no beneficial interest in any of the companies mentioned in this article. Charles Schwab and optionsXpress Holdings are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.