OA Price Chart

Orbital ATK stock came close to jumping clean off the chart after earnings came out Thursday. OA Price data by YCharts.

Fresh off its spinoff of target sports supplier Vista Outdoor, and its merger of rocket scientists Orbital Sciences and Alliant Techsystems, the new and improved Orbital ATK (NYSE:OA) is looking like a force to contend with in the field of rocket tech.

On Thursday, Orbital ATK earnings came out for the fiscal second quarter 2015, and the news was nothing short of glorious:

  • Sales for the quarter reached $1.13 billion, up 58% year over year.
  • Operating profits on those sales leapt 75%, to $126 million.
  • Adjusted operating income (a metric I'd ordinarily discount, but one that probably needed "adjusting" given the difficulty of comparing results from a merged company against results from two previously independent ones) expanded 60 basis points, to 11.6%.
  • Net earnings per diluted share grew a more modest, but still impressive, 27% -- $1.22 EPS.

Orbital ATK CEO David Thompson characterized the results as "excellent" and "better than expected." With Orbital ATK stock up nearly 5% already, investors seem to agree.

Where do we go from here?
Given the difficulty of comparing Orbital ATK's merged results with the numbers produced by its component companies in years past, investors are probably best advised to value Orbital ATK stock on what it's likely to do going forward -- not what it's done in the past, impressive as these past results are. So what does management have to say on that front?

According to CFO Garrett Pierce, strong year-to-date results have encouraged management to raise its "financial guidance for calendar year 2015 revenues, operating margin and earnings per share." The company now expects to deliver this year:

  • Revenue between $4.4 billion and $4.5 billion
  • 10.5% to 11% operating profit margins on that revenue
  • Earnings per share of about $4.70
  • Free cash flow of roughly $250 million.

At today's market capitalization of $4.5 billion, this all values the company at roughly:

That last valuation is the only one that's really worrisome. When you factor Orbital ATK's $1.5 billion debt load into the picture, the stock's enterprise value rises to about $6 billion, and its enterprise value-to-free-cash-flow ratio to about 24. Given that analysts who follow Orbital ATK expect the company to post profits growth in the 18%-per-year range during the next five years, a 24 EV/FCF ratio could be expensive. That said, in light of the attractive P/S and P/E numbers -- and the superb performance this past quarter -- I have to say that I'm actually prepared to give Orbital ATK the benefit of the doubt on EV/FCF.

Two out of three valuation metrics ain't bad. And on two out of those three, Orbital ATK stock looks very "buyable" indeed.

Rich Smith does not own shares of, nor is he short, any company named above. You can find him on Motley Fool CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked No. 338 out of more than 75,000 rated members.

The Motley Fool recommends Orbital ATK. 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.