I don't often write about tech investments, but I do have a soft spot for the makers of shiny toys. I can trace it directly to my love for gadgets. Looking at an Apple
When it comes to investing, I often find myself passing over what most folks consider the cream of the crop in tech investments. Even though the "buy what you know" mantra ticks away in my brain, I usually find that most of the future benefits in tech investments are priced in.
Still, you can find cheap tech stocks on occasion; they're just not the ones garnering all the praise and hoopla. A current example is Sonar/GPS equipment specialist Lowrance Electronics
The company's financials still have enough red flags to worry investors. Gross margins have taken a hit on the income statement as the company expands into the lower-margin but rapidly growing consumer GPS market. And the balance sheet shows accounts receivable and inventory growth that's outpacing sales growth -- a cause for concern that we highlight often here at the Fool. To top it all off, the company sports $26.5 million in debt to go along with just $1.3 million in cash, and the cash it raised from the secondary offering in 2004 was spent paying down debt and buying out a lease on a factory and land in Mexico.
At first glance, Lowrance appears to be a mess, but I'm rather bullish on the company for a few reasons. My most important consideration is that at the company has a price-to-earnings ratio 10. With that kind of rate, all of the above problems are pretty well priced into the shares. I also note that Lowrance grew at a 33% clip in the second quarter, a growth that comes on the heels of profitable and accelerating sales growth of 26.7%, 11.1%, and 8.3% in 2004, 2003, and 2002, respectively.
I'm a little bit concerned about the accounts-receivable and inventory-growth numbers. They're the factors that keep me cautiously optimistic. But the second quarter marks the beginning of Lowrance's busiest time of the year, and the third quarter is historically its busiest, so a buildup in inventory to meet what should be growing demand is not unwarranted.
Lowrance does have formidable competition in Garmin
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Fool contributor Nathan Parmelee owns shares of Lowrance, but none of the other companies mentioned. The Fool has a disclosure policy.