At The Motley Fool, we poke plenty of fun at Wall Street analysts and their endless cycle of upgrades, downgrades, and "initiating coverage at neutral." So you might think we'd be the last people to give virtual ink to such "news." And we would be -- if that were all we were doing.
But in "This Just In," we don't simply tell you what the analysts said. We'll also show you whether they know what they're talking about. To help, we've enlisted Motley Fool CAPS, our tool for rating stocks and analysts alike. With CAPS, we track the long-term performance of Wall Street's best and brightest -- and its worst and sorriest, too.
Foolish minds think alike ... except when they don't
Last week, my Foolish colleague Seth Jayson (co-lead analyst for the market-trouncing Motley Fool Hidden Gems newsletter) laid out his arguments for why Force Protection
Force Protection's year-over-year revenue shrank 26.7%, and its [accounts receivable] grew 29.3%. That's a big yellow flag. End-of-quarter [days sales outstanding] increased 76.4% over the prior-year quarter. It was up 7.6% versus the prior quarter. That also demands a good explanation ...
This morning, Capstone Investments stood up and made the opposite argument. For all Force's issues -- I've highlighted the sales/accounts receivable gap myself, and the strangled cashflows that result -- Capstone believes the stock still offers a compelling bargain today. I agree.
Strength outweighing weakness, opportunities greater than the threats
Every stock has its flaws -- and Force Protection more than most. After bursting onto the stage with its groundbreaking "MRAP" armored vehicles in the heat of the Iraq War, Force has floundered when forced to compete with larger, better-funded, and better-politically connected rivals.
When the military needed follow-on orders for MRAPs, BAE Systems, Navistar
Yet things are finally starting to turn around for Force Protection. The company just announced a big, big win after the U.K. named Force its preferred bidder for perhaps 400 new "Light Protected Patrol" vehicles. If Australia follows suit in its analogous "Protected Mobility Vehicle -- Light" competition, Force could book as much as $1.3 billion in sales of a single product, its new Ocelot "skateboard-and-pod" armored car.
Tasty icing, but how's the cake?
Winning a contract Down Under to match its win up above would be great news for Force Protection shareholders -- but it's not necessary to justify buying the stock today, according to Capstone. Noting that Force generates more than $300 million in annual revenue just from supporting the MRAPs it's already built, Capstone argues these sales alone suffice to justify the company's meager $355 million market cap.
And again, I agree. If you accept my thesis that a steady growing, profitable defense shop should sell for at least a sum equal to its annual sales, Force's $300 million support business fits the bill quite nicely.
Toss in sales of additional weaponry -- the "iron" that Force's mechanics keep oiled and upgraded while generating those support revenues -- and the company is already selling for a rough 60% discount to that sales valuation. That's about half the price-to-sales ratio of Boeing
Foolish final thought
I'd really like to tell you that Capstone has a good reputation for making accurate picks on Motley Fool CAPS. Sadly, this analyst is not one of the many who submit their ratings to Briefing.com for public review.
Now it's your turn to chime in. Is the buy-thesis for Force Protection as armor-plated as I think it is -- or do you see a chink in the armor? Tell us -- on Motley Fool CAPS.
Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of (nor is he short) any company named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked No. 608 out of more than 170,000 members. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
General Dynamics is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation.The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community.