Honeywell International (NYSE:HON) reported third-quarter earnings results on Oct. 17, and for the second consecutive quarter, the company beat revenue and earnings-per-share estimates, boosted margins, and raised guidance. Shares jumped 4% in response, but that didn't seem adequate to many investors, given that the stock had hit a 52-week low only two days before.
For some investors, the sell-off in Honeywell didn't make much sense. While fears of a global slowdown may justify some selling pressure, the recent price action made it seem as though the company were suffering negative sales growth and was overexposed to decelerating economies.
Fortunately, all indications from the company pointed in a completely different direction. Let's see what management had to say about the quarter.
Which regions are strong
While investors may be worried about a global slowdown, some markets remain very strong for Honeywell, as CEO Dave Cote noted:
We are seeing strength in the U.S., particularly in our residential and industrial markets. ... China continues to be a strong market for us both on the short- and long-cycle sides of the portfolio, and we saw double-digit increases this quarter in both the Middle East and India -- reinforcing that our focus in high-growth regions is paying off.
It's great news for investors to hear that Honeywell's main market, the U.S., is still humming along nicely, as is China. It's also good to see that the company's "high-growth regions" investment is paying off. The larger, more stable markets are responsible for a bulk of the company's sales, while the high-growth investments provide a nice kicker to its overall growth performance.
Which regions aren't strong
Of course, while some regions do well, others simply will not. Cote said:
As you know, we've been conservative over the years in our planning assumptions for Europe, and I think that's been a good call. ... [W]e're going to continue to remain conservative on the global economy. We haven't counted on much from the macro environment historically, and so far that has been a good call.
The company's management team -- as it reminded us numerous times throughout the conference call -- prefers to issue conservative guidance. While this may result in less euphoric price action for the stock, it's better than the alternative, which is to overpromise and underdeliver.
Honeywell is conservative, but not negative, on the global economy. That's good, as the management team has been "conservative" on the global economy for some time now. In other words, nothing has changed for the company going forward.
What should investors expect going forward?
We're confident in our continued outperformance because, one, our portfolio is aligned to favorable trends like energy efficiency, clean energy generation, safety and security, urbanization, and customer productivity that continue to trend positive. And two, we have been conservative on costs.
We're in the process of completing our annual operating plans, and overall we see prospects for another good year in 2015. As I mentioned already, we have a very healthy backlog and see positive order and win rates across the portfolio. We're also expecting another year of margin expansion.
The company's higher yet conservative guidance is one of the great things about Honeywell. Increased guidance is good for obvious reasons. The company will generate higher sales and hopefully higher profits. That's great. Being conservative adds the likelihood for better-than-expected results, as well as guidance increases throughout the year.
Organic growth is strong
Organic growth is a metric that shows how much growth comes from the company's core business -- not business generated from previous acquisitions or mergers. To some degree, it's a reflection of the company's own efficiency. Said Cote:
In the quarter our organic sales growth accelerated to 5%, a continuation of the positive trend we've seen throughout the year, and even more encouraging was the fact that we saw organic sales growth broadly across the portfolio in all our segments. It truly was a balanced contribution highlighting great positions in good industries.
Later in the call, CFO Tom Szlosek added:
[W]e're encouraged by the improvement in organic sales growth as we've progressed throughout the year. Remember, it was 1% in Q1, 3% in Q2, and now 5% in Q3.
On a regional basis, organic sales were up 5% in the U.S., 1% in Europe, 4% in China, and double digits in a number of our other high-growth regions.
Overall sales growth for the third quarter was 5%, meaning organic sales were an important driver this quarter. This trend continues to gain momentum.
I'm very pleased with Honeywell's results. I wasn't too worried about the third quarter, but I admit I was somewhat reluctant to hear the company's guidance. However, if fears of global growth were coming to fruition, I'm confident management would have said so -- especially given the company's conservative approach.
That management didn't mention this leads me to believe that Honeywell is in a position to continue delivering solid performance. To see how well the company did in the third quarter, check out "Honeywell International's Earnings Results Prove Sellers Wrong."
Otherwise, consider recent weakness in the stock price a possible buying opportunity for the long term.
Bret Kenwell has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. 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.