If there's anything good about a company being forced to go through a period of restructuring and accounting restatements, it might be that it leads to the hope that the coast is clear once the company emerges. Investors in OM Group
No doubt that matters at OM Group got messy -- so messy, in fact, that the company restated results going back to 1999, and today presented results for the fourth quarter, ended in December.
It's been a rough few years for OM Group: The stock was smashed in late 2002, and the company both bought and sold a precious metals unit within that time. Along with that has come a great deal of volatility in the metals markets, uncertainty about end-user demand, and a change from LIFO accounting to FIFO accounting.
What's more, business in the whole sector hasn't exactly been blockbuster. Investors who only casually follow the commodity markets might be surprised to see companies like OM Group, MacDermid
OM Group, like the others, is caught between a red-hot market for base material inputs (like cobalt or nickel) and a sluggish market for the end-user specialty goods (like superalloys) that they produce. What's more, since OM Group doesn't control its metal supplies, it is rather at the mercy of prices and production levels that it can't fully control.
If a challenging marketing environment and a major accounting restatement aren't bad enough, OM Group is still straining under a hefty debt load and must resolve a technical default created by the company's late financial filings.
Making matters a bit worse, OM Group management pretty much refused to talk about their 2005 outlook today -- postponing any discussions of 2005 until the company's mid-year report. It's not lost on this writer at least that a 2005 outlook given in mid-2005 isn't exactly helpful for investors looking at the stock today.
Overall, OM Group makes products that will continue to be in demand. The company's cobalt products are critical in many types of batteries, catalysts, and hardened metals. Nickel is similarly critical as an ingredient in steelmaking, alloys, and plating. With new markets like hybrid cars and gas-to-liquid energy plants coming on-line, and the possibility of a revival in industries like aerospace, some level of demand should stay in place.
I wish I could be more positive about a company with a trailing PE of only 7 on an as-reported basis. But with a complete lack of information (the last 10-Q I could find was dated December 2003), I simply can't perform the due diligence I need to assess the company.
So, for now, at least, I'll leave this story by saying that the company certainly has worthwhile products and markets, but I have no idea whether this is the sort of company that Fools should consider for an investment.
For more on the world of metals and specialty products:
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long, nor short the shares).