Two years ago, when previous Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation Force Protection
I criticized its unprofitable alliance with General Dynamics
And I was wrong.
At least on that last point. Not all insurance execs are risk-hungry idiots like the folks at AIG
As I described a few months back, after making one last, ultimately doomed attempt to find buyers for its white-elephant-of-a-Cheetah armored vehicle, Moody finally threw in the towel and admitted that Force Protection is outclassed in the competition for big-ticket Pentagon weapons systems. He seems to have acknowledged that there's no "percentage" in going head-to-head with the likes of BAE, Navistar
Instead, Moody restructured the company, rolled back Force's manufacturing infrastructure, and focused on the company's core strength in innovating new defense technologies -- on transforming Force into, as he termed it, "a full-service survivability solutions provider."
His strategy is working. According to this week's report, Force grew its revenue roughly 19% last year (excluding last year's profit margin-less "pass-through sales" to General D -- see above.) The company cut capital spending by nearly a third, reduced inventories 16%, and maxed out cash production in its new asset-lite business model, generating $38.3 million in free cash flow last year -- an 85% increase over the 2008 figure.
As a result, while 2009's "profits" (as GAAP accounting defines the term) may be down, cash levels are actually up (to $147 million.) When you net out the firm's vast cash reserves, the business Moody has salvaged now "sells" for just $318 million, versus better than $38 million in annual cash production -- an enterprise value-to-free cash flow ratio of just 8.3.
Its business success notwithstanding, Force Protection's stock has lagged the market badly over the past year. How do you tell a bargain stock from a value trap? Find out here.
Fool contributor Rich Smith has no interests, short or long, in any company named above. Berkshire Hathaway and General Dynamics are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Berkshire Hathaway is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. The Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.