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." While the pinstripe-and-wingtip crowd is entitled to its opinions, we've got some pretty sharp stock pickers down here on Main Street, too. (And we're not always impressed with how Wall Street does its job.)
Given that, perhaps we shouldn't be giving virtual ink to "news" of analyst upgrades and downgrades. And we wouldn't -- if that were all we were doing. But in "This Just In," we don't simply tell you what the analysts said. We 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.
Bullish on Boeing
On July 4, Boeing's
And not just Boeing. According to StreetInsider.com, BB&T jumped into the water feet-first this morning, slapping "buy" ratings on Boeing as well as suppliers Rockwell Collins
So far, no one knows much more than that, I'm afraid. We've got the buy ratings. We've got the price targets ($92 for Boeing; $79 for Rockwell; $31 for Spirit; $110 for TransDigm; and $50 for BE). But we don't have any details on why these five stocks get thumbs up from BB&T while engine makers United Technologies
Let's go to the tape
Thanks to the magic of Motley Fool CAPS, while I can't tell you much about why BB&T thinks these five Boeing-related stocks are buys, I can tell you how well the analyst does its thinking.
Good news for investors. According to our CAPS stats, BB&T is one of the better stock pickers out there today. Five years of tracking this banker's buys and sells reveals that nearly 56% of the time, BB&T does indeed succeed in outperforming the market with its advice. (While that may not sound like much, it's good enough to outperform about 96% of the investors we track on CAPS.)
787 stocks: Buy the numbers?
Will BB&T succeed in preserving its record with today's Dreamliner-related recommendations? It's hard to be certain. After all, this is the analyst's first foray into airplane parts stocks, so it's anybody's guess whether BB&T will prove as proficient in this particular sector of the economy as it has in its previous efforts. But I have to say -- based on the numbers I'm looking at, I'm not optimistic about BB&T's chances.
I might as well get this one out of the way first: Boeing's run is done. I called the top on Boeing back in June. And while I won't be a bit surprised to see the stock spurt ahead once 787s begin touching tarmac around the globe, I expect any gains to be fleeting. Boeing today costs 16 times trailing earnings, and as far as the future goes, it's expected to notch only 11.6% long-term earnings growth. Free cash flow at the company lags reported "net income" badly; as a result, I see no value in Boeing at today's prices. Sorry to break the bad news, but I'm calling this one as I see it.
The bull case for Rockwell has related problems. Once again, we've got a not-frighteningly high P/E ratio of just under 16. But like Boeing, Rockwell has had trouble generating free cash flow in line with its reported earnings. Earnings growth at Rockwell is expected to lag that of its key client, rising only 9.3% per year on average, in the opinion of most Wall Street analysts. Altogether a poor value proposition.
The situation with Spirit is similarly scary. While slightly cheaper than Boeing or Rockwell (15.4 by P/E), and growing as fast as Boeing (11.6%), this company is actually burning cash. Free cash flow has run negative by more than $150 million over the past 12 months. Indeed, Spirit has been burning cash for the past five years running.
TransDigm and BE Aerospace
As businesses, these two companies are on firmer footing than the previous companies. Each generates free cash flow in excess of its reported income. Problem is, the stocks just plain cost too much. BE shares fetch 26 times reported earnings, and nearly 18 times free cash flow. These prices are a bit rich for the 14.5% annual earnings growth that analysts expect BE to achieve over the next five years. As for TransDigm, here we've got a near-35 P/E stock (20 times FCF) expected to grow 15.3% per year -- again, too pricey by far.
A better idea
All in all, I'd say BB&T has its work cut out for it making money on any of the five stocks it picked today. They're all fine companies, but at today's prices, I just don't see value in any of them. If I were making the recommendation, I'd lay my money on one of the stocks it missed: Boeing engine maker General Electric. At 15.7 times earnings, GE stock costs roughly as much as Boeing. But with long-term profits growth projected to average just under 15% -- and a hefty 3.3% dividend yield to make up the difference -- GE looks like a much better bet.
Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of (or short) any company named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked No. 567 out of more than 180,000 members. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
Speaking of which, Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of two stocks Rich doesn't like: TransDigm Group and Spirit AeroSystems Holdings. Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.