Ahh, spring is in the air. The birds are chirping, the yard needs some work, and my beloved Chicago Cubs are already near the cellar of the NL Central standings just three days into the new season. It's always about this time of year when I dust off my baseball glove and bat, take the cleats out of storage, and head to the nearest ballpark with friends for some much-needed batting practice after a long winter -- in the process reminding myself exactly why I went undrafted after my high-school career ended.
It's also about time for another spring ritual: digging boxes of Topps
I hope my cards have done better than Topps itself, whose shares have gone precisely nowhere since opening day last year. In fact, the company has been mired in a slump for several years now. That weakness was evident in this morning's year-end boxscore, which resembled a one-for-five with two strikeouts performance -- not terrible, but you wouldn't want to make a habit of it.
Fourth-quarter net income barely cracked the breakeven point, dropping to just a penny per share from $0.07 a year ago, on sales that fell 2% to $68.3 million. Full-year results looked marginally better, with net income (excluding a first-quarter $0.05 fine imposed by the European Commission) inching up to $0.32 on sales that slipped fractionally lower to $295.9 million.
Topps has now posted its third year (out of the past four) of declining revenues, which are roughly split between confectionaries and sports and entertainment cards. Candy sales have grown sour for a while now and registered a 2% drop for the year to $143.8 million. However, Topps did sell about 10% more Ring Pops, Juicy Pops, and Bazooka bubble gum in the fourth quarter, slightly better than the 8% top-line growth that industry leader Hershey
Revenues in the entertainment segment were essentially a mirror image, dropping almost 10% for the quarter, but rising modestly for the year to $152.1 million. Those who have fond memories of the 1980s may know Topps best for its sports cards and Garbage Pail Kids, but today the company also markets a variety of non-sports cards, ranging from Lord of the Rings to Pokemon to Yu-Gi-Oh! stickers. The segment has also benefited from the acquisition of the WizKids strategy game, whose sales jumped 24% for the quarter.
The stock isn't cheap, with a forward P/E (24) that would make for a pretty good home run total at the All-Star break. However, top line growth is in the forecast this year, and each share comes with around $2.60 in cash inside -- which unlike that old rectangular gum tastes pretty sweet.
Fool contributor Nathan Slaughter has an unopened box of 1984 Topps if anyone is interested. He owns none of the companies mentioned.