Since debuting on the public markets as a spinoff from home-improvement behemoth Home Depot (NYSE:HD), the industrial and construction-related distribution shop HD Supply Holdings (NASDAQ:HDS) has largely delighted investors with a vertical stock price trajectory... until this week. Upon releasing its earnings, investors and analysts were disappointed by soft top-line sales -- an important factor to justify the company's relatively expensive valuation. Things got better further on down the income statement, but Mr. Market still punished the stock well into the double digits. The question now is, after the sell-off, is HD Supply a compelling play on the construction supply industry?
In its first earnings release as a stand-alone public company, out from under the wing of either Home Depot or private equity partners, HD Supply was able to show its investors and analysts that margins had improved, and sales grew a respectable 10% to $2.3 billion. Operating income jumped an impressive 46%, while adjusted EBITDA climbed up 14%. On the bottom line, the company beat analyst expectations, bringing in a profit of $0.23 per share.
On a unit-by-unit level, investors can see what is really working for the company and, hopefully, where more growth can emerge. Facilities maintenance saw sales grow 12% and its adjusted EBITDA grew 15% to $125 million. Waterworks grew 14% and accounted for $50 million in adjusted EBITDA. Power solutions was the weakest segment, growing just 4% and representing $18 million in EBITDA, down from $20 million in the year-ago quarter. White cap, a segment that distributes specialized hardware and materials to construction markets, grew sales by 9% while adjusted EBITDA hit $24 million.
The most compelling area is facilities maintenance, which actually separates HD Supply from some of its competitors. The FM segment is a much higher-margin business than, say, Waterworks and holds an appealing growth runway. The business revolves around supplying hardware and tools to multifamily housing units. However, management has expressed interest in expanding into other commercial applications.
Wall Street did not like the company's guidance, which called for 2013 sales in the range of $8.55 billion to $8.75 billion and adjusted EBITDA of $755 million to $775 million.
At a glance, earnings weren't so bad, even if guidance is a bit tepid, so what gives?
A bit pricey
With a 30% run-up since its IPO in the beginning of the summer, investors were clearly expecting more out of HD Supply's first reported quarter. The company has a strong hold on its various markets, and should be able to deliver solid growth regardless of market conditions. Sales reflected a more average performer, and the rich valuation took a hit.
Now, at about 11.75 times forward earnings, HD Supply isn't as pricey and represents a steep multiple discount compared to one of its peers, WW Grainger, which trades at 19.7 times earnings.
As residential and non-residential construction spending ticks back up, and the company continues its growth plan of both organic and acquisition-driven market share gains, HD Supply may be an appealing long-term pick. As with any construction-tied business, the stock will go in flux with macroeconomic shifts -- far from an insulated business. However, for the time being, there is not much reason to suggest that HD Supply won't find ways to grow its business and, hopefully, its stock price.
Fool contributor Michael Lewis has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Home Depot. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.