Last month's auto sales figures were released on Oct. 1, and the results were inspiring for bullish auto investors. In the U.S., sales climbed 9.4% over September 2013 and are now up 5.5% for the year. While this is great news for automakers, it is equally great for parts suppliers such as Delphi Automotive (NYSE:DLPH).
The stock is down 15% in the past month and has been unable to escape recent selling pressure. But for long-term investors, that's a good thing, since it provides an opportunity to buy. Although earnings and revenue growth have been strong -- on pace to rise 15.7% and 5.6%, respectively, for 2014, based on analysts' estimates -- there are plenty of other reasons to like the stock. Let's explore those reasons below.
Asia remains strong
Last year, General Motors (NYSE:GM) sold a whopping 3.1 million vehicles in China (compared to 2.8 million in the U.S.). General Motors also plans to invest $14 billion in the region over the next five years, showing there is still immense potential for growth.
Ford (NYSE:F) has a similar story, with sales in China up 30% so far in 2014. In May, I highlighted the Blue Oval's emergence in the Chinese auto space. I outlined how China is quickly outpacing the U.S. in terms of sales volume and could reach a whopping seasonally adjusted annual rate, or SAAR, of 30 million Ford cars by 2020.
So what do Ford and General Motors have to do with Delphi? Aside from supplying both companies with parts in Asia, Delphi also has a large amount of bookings in Asia, (which is essentially the same as saying 'orders'). According to Delphi's latest earnings presentation, 42% of the total bookings year-to-date were generated from the region.
That's great news for investors, as nearly half of the company's bookings are coming from one of the fastest-growing regions for auto sales -- not to mention the sheer size of this market. According to World Population Review, Asia is estimated to have 4.29 billion inhabitants, which is roughly 60% of the global population. The population growth in this region is likely to continue and is expected to be sustained, economically.
Delphi revenue from Asia rose 15% in the most recent quarter, compared to just over 6% for North America. As long as Delphi has a presence in China, it should have viable long-term growth opportunities.
The company returns capital
Delphi also returns cash to shareholders. In January, it said it would pay out a $1-per-share annual dividend. The dividend yield stands at 1.7%.
I recently spoke with Jessica Holscott, Delphi vice president of investor relations, who said management's goal is to grow the dividend payout at a rate similar to its earnings growth. For perspective, earnings per share is expected to climb 15.7% from $4.40 in 2013 to $5.09 this year. Investors can likely expect another dividend boost in January.
Aside from the dividend, the company also announced a $1 billion share repurchase plan at the start of the year. This is a solid one-two punch for shareholder returns. While using its operating free cash flow to buy back stock and pay out a dividend, the company is able to generate additional shareholder value. That means management is not using debt to fund these initiatives.
Strong business plan
If investors are looking for short-term catalysts, they need look no further than the broader auto market. Global auto sales have been strong, particularly in the U.S. Below is a chart of the SAAR:
In the short term, U.S. sales seem likely to stagnate -- at the very worst. Even then, Delphi will still be able to churn out revenue growth, assuming China and other markets remain strong, while boosting earnings per share with higher margins and stock buybacks.
Over the long term, the company has plenty of initiatives that should lead the way to future growth. Areas such as green energy, active safety electronics, and connectivity via software products are all growing rapidly.
In fact, each one of these initiatives are growing at a compound annual growth rate of 8% for Delphi, according to a presentation given at the Morgan Stanley Industrials & Autos Conference (read here for more details).
By focusing on new technology, the company can grow new revenue streams that ensure investors have something to look forward to. By returning capital and finding strong growth regions, the stock appears attractive for long-term appreciation.