Keeping things in storage is an American tradition, and Mobile Mini (NASDAQ:MINI) has worked to make it as convenient as possible for its customers. Peers like Public Storage (NYSE:PSA) have extensive real-estate holdings and massive facilities to serve hundreds or even thousands of customers at a single site, but Mobile Mini prefers to take storage to its clients directly through its portable options. Recent economic turmoil has created some concerns about the company recently, and coming into Friday's fourth-quarter financial report, Mobile Mini investors wanted further evidence that it would keep growing despite a possible future slowdown. Mobile Mini's results were better than expected on the bottom line, and more income for dividend investors was welcome. Let's take a closer look at Mobile Mini to see what's ahead for the portable-storage specialist.
Mobile Mini keeps climbing
Mobile Mini's fourth-quarter results were mixed in terms of expectations but still showed good growth trends. Total revenue rose 9% to $134.5 million, falling short of hopes for an 11% growth rate in sales. Adjusted net income climbed 8% to $18.4 million, and that worked out to adjusted earnings of $0.41 per share, $0.02 above the consensus forecast among investors.
Mobile Mini's fundamentals were generally in line with what investors have seen in past quarters. The portable storage business was solid, with rental revenues climbing 5.2% after excluding the wood mobile offices that the company sold off in mid-2015. Mobile Mini boosted rental rates for portable storage units by 2.8%, and utilization rates climbed to 74%.
Mobile Mini's specialty containment unit also was a powerful growth driver. Revenue more than quadrupled to $26.1 million, and the unit nearly tripled its operating income and saw adjusted EBITDA rise 225%. Those results have been essential in helping to keep sales growth moving despite the wood-office divestiture last year.
CEO Erik Olsson pointed to several aspects of Mobile Mini's success. Olsson highlighted widening margins, increase new activations, and rising rental figures in supporting the overall business. The CEO was particularly pleased that the company achieved this success despite unfavorable currency impacts that hurt its overall results.
Can Mobile Mini store up more growth?
Olsson also sees 2016 shaping up well. "Demand in our construction, industrial, and diversified sectors remains strong," the CEO said, "and we are well-situated to capitalize on our existing Mobile Mini footprint to expand our downstream specialty containment market in 2016." The company is looking for mid- to high-single-digit rental revenue growth this year.
Mobile Mini was optimistic enough that it decided to share its success with shareholders in the form of a higher dividend. The company declared a 10% increase to its first-quarter dividend, setting the new payout at $0.206 per share. Shareholders will receive the higher payment in March, and the boost takes Mobile Mini's dividend yield above the 3% mark at current prices. That's higher than the yield that Public Storage currently pays, and in addition to dividends, Mobile Mini also spent $6 million on stock repurchase activity during the fourth quarter, emphasizing its belief that the stock is a bargain right now.
Still, Mobile Mini needs a healthy industrial economy to succeed. Public Storage does much of its business with customers using space for personal use, and it has held up well given the health of the housing market and the consumer economy generally. Mobile Mini has much more of a business focus than Public Storage, and so Mobile Mini is arguably more vulnerable to the threat of economic downturns.
Mobile Mini shares initially soared in reaction to the news, but early gains of as much as 10% largely evaporated within a short time. For Mobile Mini to get its stock moving in the right direction, many investors will need to see clearer evidence of sustainable growth even if the U.S. economy falters.
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.