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Why Leidos Holdings, Inc. Shares Plunged Today

By Steve Symington – Mar 27, 2014 at 1:29PM

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Is Leidos' drop meaningful? Or just another movement?

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.

What: Shares of Leidos Holdings, (LDOS 0.51%) or formerly Science Applications International -- fell more than 18% Thursday after the national security, health, and engineering solutions company turned in better-than-expected fiscal 2014 fourth-quarter results, but followed with disappointing guidance and announced the departure of its Chief Operating Officer.

So what: Quarterly revenue fell 18% year over year, to $1.3 billion, or just ahead of analysts' expectations for sales of $1.27 billion. This translated to earnings of $0.52 per diluted share (including a $0.04 per share loss from discontinued operations). Analysts, on average, were modeling earnings of just $0.43 per share.

However, Leidos also called for fiscal 2015 revenue of $4.9 billion to $5.1 billion, with adjusted earnings per diluted share from continuing operations of $2.35 to $2.55. The midpoints of both ranges stand significantly below analysts' expectations for fiscal 2015 sales of $5.46 billion, and earnings of $2.85 per share.

On a more positive note, Leidos does expect to generate healthy cash flow from continuing operations at or above $350 million this fiscal year.

Finally, Leidos announced current president and COO Stu Shea will step down on April 6, 2014. The departure was a mutual decision between Shea and Leidos' board.

Now what: Leidos CEO John Jumper didn't sugarcoat it, saying, "In our fourth quarter, we continued to encounter headwinds from sequestration, unclear funding on awarded programs, delayed award decisions, high levels of protest activity, and continued commercial health and engineering revenue declines."

Still, he insists Leidos will focus on strategies to "increase returns and deepen our market penetration, especially in markets where we no longer face organizational conflicts of interest." Leidos will also continue returning capital to shareholders through share repurchases and its 3% annual dividend.

While it's tempting to stay far away given Leidos' outlook, I find myself intrigued. Keep in mind that, taking the midpoint of that guidance, the stock seems to reflect much of investors' pessimism trading at just 0.6 and 14 times this year's expected sales and earnings, respectively. In the end, while I wouldn't jump in with both feet, today's pullback could provide a reasonable opportunity for patient investors to open a small position.

Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 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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