At more than 28,000 feet, the mighty K2 in the Himalayas is the second highest mountain in the world. Its imposing North Face has daunted modern climbers for 100 years and probably ancestral ones for millions of years more.
The sporting goods manufacturer with the same name, K2
It is one of the hazards of being a serial acquirer and having to digest many mergers and acquisitions.
While organic sales for 2004 rose a healthy 9%, many of its acquisitions have been pouring cash into its bank accounts, with the balance rising 42% over last quarter to $25.6 million. K2 has been able to assimilate its acquisitions pretty much without any indigestion, picking up the leading brands in the various segments into which it sells and in turn having them power growth.
For example, its acquisition of the Ex Officio and Marmot clothing lines helped propel a 437% increase in sales for the division for the fourth quarter, while double-digit increases in sales of its eponymous line of skis and snowshoes -- along with sales from the Volkl and Marker brands it picked up last June -- boosted quarterly sales in its action sports segment 130% over last year.
Yet it was those last two acquisitions that have apparently thrown fear into the analysts and skewed their projections. Volkl and Marker make skis and bindings, which are big sellers during the winter months, obviously, but contribute very little during the rest of the year except to the expense side of the ledger. With sales from these companies driving growth in the third and fourth quarters of 2004, analysts apparently became giddy at the heights to which K2 would ascend and set earnings expectations for the first quarter of 2005 at $0.27 a share and $1.03 for the year.
K2, however, had to toss some cold water on the group. It offered earnings guidance of $0.04 to $0.06 per share for the quarter and $0.87 to $0.91 for the year. The frozen-rope growth predicted for the coming year spooked the analysts and caused the avalanche in its stock price.
As a salve, K2 also announced a $50 million share buyback program, but that really offers little to shareholders. It simply minimizes the dilution that's been caused by CEO Richard Heckmann's shopping spree, for a total of some 15 acquisitions since 2003. Earnings for the year were more than 11% lower than they otherwise would have been. Still, the company remains strong, even while total debt has risen to Himalayan proportions as Heckmann has tried to roll up the industry under the K2 roof.
K2's stock price chart could double as an image of the great North Face. Investors should look for opportunities around $13 to make their own epic trek toward profitability.
You can read more about K2's merger mania here:
Fool contributor Rich Duprey has made epic treks to the refrigerator for a Coors Light. He owns shares in K2 but does not own any of the other stocks mentioned in the article.