Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
So what: We've all heard about the steep rise in commodity prices lately, and how it's doing a number on American corporations' profits. But not all corporations are suffering. Ashland in particular has succeeded in passing along much of the cost of appreciating oil in an effort "to fully restore margins." Adding to the company's good fortune, Ashland unloaded a subsidiary on private equity powerhouse TPG last quarter, resulting in a one-time gain that inflated net profits all the way up to $4.39 for the quarter.
Now what: That one-time gain will throw off the company's P/E ratio for a while, and make Ashland look a whole lot more profitable (and cheap) than it really is. Just for kicks, let's look at an alternative measure of valuation for the company: Free cash flow.
FCF for the past 12 months came to $159 million. Placed next to the stock's current $5 billion market cap, that makes for about a 31 times FCF valuation on Ashland. If you think this is a good price to pay for a company that most folks on Wall Street believe will grow no faster than 13% per year over the next five years, well, you'll need all the luck you can muster to make money on this stock.
Disagree? Think Ashland will grow into a mighty oak? Add it to your Watchlist, and find out.