I'm not so proud that I can't admit to getting some of my ideas by following fund managers I respect. A few years ago I'd never heard of LincolnElectric
Second-quarter results seem to merit that interest. Sales were up 22% in the period, and net income grew 28% (excluding a favorable tax adjustment). Although gross margins slipped a bit on a quarter-over-quarter basis, operating income margin improved a full point. Operating cash flow continues to positively track net income, climbing 42% so far year to date.
Sales were strong across the board. North American sales rose 19%, while international sales were up 30%. Export sales, a smaller slice of the overall pie, were up 21%. Although Europe's economies are struggling, the company still saw 11% quarterly growth in that market. Elsewhere, the company continues to enjoy strong sales growth in Latin America and Asia.
Fools who watch the manufacturing sector probably won't be too surprised at Lincoln Electric's healthiest North American markets. Heavy-duty truck manufacturers, metalworkers, mining companies, and energy companies continue to be strong customers for welding equipment. Though autos are understandably one of the weakest sectors, it appears that recent promotions have improved conditions in those businesses.
Management seemed a bit cautious about the immediate future of manufacturing activity in North America and Europe. I can understand that -- many economists have started publicly worrying that the U.S. will experience the same sort of economic slowdown that currently plagues Europe. All the same, I think you can make a good long-term bull case for worldwide manufacturing -- we all want more "stuff." Lincoln can continue to grow through market-share increases and economic expansion alike.
Assuming that Fools don't expect Lincoln Electric stock to double every year, current valuation is probably reasonable. The current P/E is higher than historic growth rates, but if Lincoln Electric can continue to gain share and grow its business, those past numbers will become increasingly irrelevant to valuation.
We've hammered out more manufacturing Foolishness:
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).