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Will WD-40 Grease Your Portfolio?

By Michael Lewis - Jan 13, 2014 at 4:37PM

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The multipurpose maintenance and cleaning products company is a steady grower with sound management and a conservative balance sheet. Should it be on your list of long-term buys?

For being a household name for ages, WD-40 (WDFC 4.69%) is an underfollowed stock, with an average daily volume of just 56,000 shares. That said, the company has had a phenomenal run over the last 12 months in which the stock has gained more than 44%. It looks like the good times are set to continue as WD-40 just posted its biggest first-quarter sales in company history. The globally present multipurpose maintenance products aren't growing through the roof, but they sell reliably and generate plenty of cash flow that the company delivers back to shareholders. Here's what investors need to know about WD-40.

Well-oiled machine
In its fiscal first quarter, WD-40 saw sales of its multipurpose maintenance products (under the names WD-40 and 3-in-One) climb 3% to nearly $84 million, while household cleaning products took a relatively sharp hit -- selling 15% less than the year-ago quarter. The latter category is undergoing what's commonly called brand harvesting.

Brand harvesting is a method by which a company juices a declining segment for as much cash flow as possible. WD-40 plans to slow down marketing and promotional spending for its household cleaning products, which will bring raw sales data down but allow the margins to flourish to their maximum level. In coming quarters, the segment will represent less and less of the company's results as the core brands take on a larger role.

Broken down regionally, WD-40 sales for the quarter were down 3% in the Americas, while the Asia-Pacific and the Europe, Middle East, Africa, and India segments ticked up 4% and 3%, respectively.

On the bottom line, WD-40 brought in $0.74 per share, which was up from $0.69 per share in the year-ago quarter.

The road ahead
WD-40 is focusing intently on its maintenance products and is expanding within that segment. The company launched WD-40 Specialist in 2012 and has seen attractive growth alongside a continued international rollout.

Management expects fiscal 2014 net sales of $383 million-$398 million and net income of $40.5 million-$42.8 million. Diluted earnings per share should be in the range of $2.65-$2.80.

By most measures, WD-40 is a steady-as-she-goes consumer products company with a fantastic, long-run brand presence and smart, conservative management. The company just increased its dividend 10% to $0.34 per share, giving it a 1.9% yield.

The biggest issue facing the company is a relatively rich valuation. At more than 23 times earnings and an EV/EBITDA of 16.95 times, WD-40 is priced as a global growth player, but it isn't posting chunky double-digit growth figures. Still, it's a very well capitalized, near-zero debt business that will reliably sell its products for the foreseeable future. Income-seeking investors with a penchant for growth should look at this low-volume stock.



Fool contributor Michael Lewis has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 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.

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