No doubt about it, International Game Technology
Nevertheless, the company has been rolling snake eyes in terms of recent growth and the third quarter was no exception. With weak product sales, particularly in the U.S. market, total revenue shrank 6% for the quarter. Margins also took a hit, and operating income fell 21% from the year-ago level.
Looking at product sales, total revenue was down about 13%. While international sales were pretty robust and grew 27%, they only made up about one-third of the total. North American revenue, though, was down almost one-quarter. Interestingly, despite a significantly lower number of units shipped, the company pretty much maintained its gross margins -- helped, no doubt, by significantly stronger revenue per unit.
Although revenue and profit performance have been lacking so far, IGT continues to do a laudable job of generating cash flow. The company put some of that cash to work during the quarter, buying up more than $100 million worth of its shares.
IGT has clearly been a winning growth stock over most of the past two decades. I do wonder, though, what the true market potential in the U.S. is going to look like in the coming years. Americans have historically had a love-hate relationship with gaming and gambling. Many times in the past a boom in gambling has been followed by prohibition and re-criminalization of table gaming. If moral crusaders are apoplectic today about Abercrombie & Fitch's catalogs and the Harry Potter books, could a new crusade against gambling follow the same path?
The logical part of my brain says "no way" -- gaming seems entrenched around the country and many communities and states have become dependent upon gambling as a revenue source. Then again, introducing logic into what is often an emotional argument doesn't always get you far.
Whether or not the U.S. continues its love affair with gaming, I think IGT will need to look overseas for more of its growth. Luckily, gambling is a human trait, and it's just as popular in many other countries as it is here.
Although I give IGT its due for a great track record of growth and a pretty respectable moat around its business, I'm just not that excited about the stock. Current valuations already seem to assume an eventual recovery in the business, so I don't see any real bargain here today.
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).