After beating estimates last quarter by 7 cents, Ashland (NYSE: ASH) has set the standard for itself. The company will unveil its latest earnings on Thursday, July 28. Ashland is a global specialty chemicals company that provides products, services, and solutions that meet customer needs throughout a variety of industries.

What analysts say:

  • Buy, sell, or hold?: Analysts strongly back Ashland, with eight of 10 rating it a buy and the remainder rating it a hold. Analysts like Ashland better than competitor Dow Chemical Company overall. Analysts still rate the stock a moderate buy, but they are a bit more wary about it compared with three months ago.
  • Revenue forecasts: On average, analysts predict $1.65 billion in revenue this quarter. That would represent a decline of 30.1% from the year-ago quarter.
  • Wall Street earnings expectations: The average analyst estimate is earnings of $0.84 per share. Estimates range from $0.80 to $0.95.

What our community says:
CAPS All-Stars are solidly behind the stock, with 96.5% awarding it an "outperform" rating. The community at large agrees with the All-Stars, with 91% granting it a rating of "outperform." Fools are gung-ho about Ashland and haven't been shy with their opinions lately, logging 124 posts in the past 30 days. Ashland has a bullish CAPS rating of five out of five stars that is about on par with the Fool community's assessment.

Management:
Ashland's profit has risen year over year by an average of more than fivefold. Revenue has fallen in the past two quarters.

Now let's look at how efficient management is at running the business. Traditionally, margins represent the efficiency with which companies capture portions of sales dollars. The following table shows gross, operating, and net margins over the past four quarters.

Quarter Q2 Q1 Q4 Q3
Gross Margin 27.1% 27.4% 20.2% 22.2%
Operating Margin 7.8% 6.9% 4.4% 6.9%
Net Margin 22.7% 6.1% 3.2% 6.3%
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