I'd imagine that one of the more difficult tasks for a financial spy would be to break through security to glimpse the draft of Tuesday's earnings report from security card printer Fargo Electronics
So without breaking any laws, what can we tell you about tomorrow's earnings news? Well, for starters, we can say that analysts aren't looking for anything too surprising. Three months ago, the company predicted that earnings per diluted share would fall somewhere between $0.18 and $0.21. Analysts translated those numbers into slightly more optimistic ones, with a guesstimate that Fargo would produce a bit less than $22 million in sales for the quarter and earnings from $0.19 to $0.21 -- with $0.20 being the consensus target.
Assuming Fargo lives up to everybody's expectations -- its own and analysts' alike -- that will mean about an 11% increase in per-share profits. Nice, but hardly extraordinary, given that the revenue expectations call for a 10% gain over the results from Q3 2004. Actually, it would be a considerable letdown after the company's strong performance year to date. In the first half of fiscal 2005, Fargo transformed similar revenue growth of 13% into 40% growth in diluted earnings per share.
But while tomorrow's GAAP results may not be terribly exciting, the real story at Fargo could well be its free cash flow. As we noted last quarter, the company has done a good job of increasing its free cash flow at least as quickly as it has upped earnings through the first six months of the year. It's also producing more cash than its GAAP earnings suggest. On the other hand, most of the company's year-on-year increase in free cash flow came in Q1 rather than Q2, when it actually declined.
But that could change. Last quarter, Fargo managed to keep its inventory increases down to just 4% year over year, despite increasing sales at twice that rate. On the collections front, Fargo actually knocked 7% off of its accounts receivable. If the company can maintain those trends, I'd expect free cash flow to revive again in short order.
Finally, in related news, Fargo competitors Zebra Technologies
For more on Fargo, read:
The Motley Fool has kicked off its ninth annual Foolanthropy campaign! Nominate your favorite charities on our Foolanthropy discussion board through Nov. 1. For guidelines on what makes a charity Foolish, visit www.foolanthropy.com .
Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares in any company named above.