Finding places to put your stuff can be a huge challenge, whether you're a homeowner with limited space or a business struggling to find ways to meet regulatory recordkeeping requirements. In order to help meet demand for innovative ways to handle storage needs, portable-storage specialist Mobile Mini (NASDAQ:MINI) has made it as easy as possible for its customers to find the best and most convenient solutions to their storage needs.
Coming into Thursday morning's fourth-quarter financial report, Mobile Mini shareholders had seen the stock drop more than 15% over the past few months, continuing a downward trend that started in mid-2014. Yet Mobile Mini's results showed that the company is still finding ways to grow. Let's take a closer look at how Mobile Mini did last quarter and whether things look bright for the company in 2015.
The wrap-up for Mobile Mini's 2014
Mobile Mini posted solid fourth-quarter numbers that continued the favorable trends it has seen recently. Sales climbed 15% to $123.2 million, nearly doubling the pace of revenue growth from the third quarter, and revenue related specifically to leasing operations grew by 16% from year-ago levels. Adjusted net income soared 33%, with adjusted earnings per share of $0.37 topping the consensus projections among those following the stock by a penny per share.
Mobile Mini continued to drive its growth in several ways. Portable storage rental rates climbed another 2% during the three months of the fourth quarter, leading to year-over-year rate increases of 7.6%. New-unit rental rates have also risen by 6.5% compared to offerings from last year's fourth quarter. Fleet utilization rates for the quarter stayed flat at relatively high levels, and for the year, Mobile Mini boosted utilization by three percentage points to 68.8%.
Yet the biggest move Mobile Mini made during the quarter was its acquisition of the parent company of Evergreen Tank Solutions. Announced in November, the $405 million buyout makes Mobile Mini the third largest provider of containment solutions for petrochemical, industrial, and energy company customers in the U.S., with a leadership position in the Gulf of Mexico region. By meeting the specialty containment needs of industrial and energy-related businesses, Mobile Mini dramatically diversifies its historical focus on portable storage. Already, the new business has proven its success, with operating margins that surpassed the portable-storage business by nearly seven percentage points.
CEO Erik Olsson cited both stronger pricing and the ETS acquisition as big components to Mobile Mini's successful 2014. "During 2014," Olsson said, "we realigned our strategies to stabilize the business, grow revenues, and increase profit. The strong fourth quarter and full-year results demonstrate that our approach is working."
Can Mobile Mini keep growing in 2015?
Mobile Mini also put its money where its mouth is in terms of future confidence, with a 10% boost to its dividend. The company will now pay $0.187 per share quarterly, sending its dividend yield up to nearly 2%. In addition, Olsson noted the more than $56 million Mobile Mini spent on stock buybacks during 2014 and pointed to $15 million more in repurchases already in 2015.
One question Mobile Mini will have to answer is whether its acquisition of ETS will prove to have come at exactly the wrong time. If activity in the energy sector diminishes as a result of lower oil prices, then the prospect for falling demand for specialty containment services could hurt Mobile Mini's anticipated growth from the new unit. Yet to the extent that Mobile Mini serves downstream energy markets -- which in some cases will benefit from lower prices of oil and refined products -- it could actually see growing demand. In particular, with the market rewarding those willing to store oil and energy products for future sale, Mobile Mini's fleet of steel tank containers could get even more use.
Overall, though, Mobile Mini appears poised to keep finding ways to grow its business. With few reasons to believe the need for storage solutions will diminish in the near future, Mobile Mini shares have plenty of room to rise from current levels and reward shareholders who have the patience to see how 2015 plays out.
Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Mobile Mini. 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.