I frequently like to scan the daily list of 52-week highs and lows in The Wall Street Journal. Since I like good deals, I am usually most interested in the stocks that are bottoming out. One such stock, which hit a new low on Monday, is an obscure little company called Rock of Ages
Rock of Ages is in a business related to that of Motley Fool Hidden Gems star performer Alderwoods Group
Rock of Ages owns and operates granite quarries, as well as manufacturing and retail outlets. And its work is not just limited to headstones: It also produces granite for use in mausoleums and buildings. The company has had some struggles recently with its quarries, with sales of granite to Chinese customers falling in the quarter ending July 2 to $5.9 million, compared with $9.5 million a year ago. The company claims that the sales fall-off is due to a tightening of their Chinese customers' credit conditions. But for the remainder of the year, it expects sales to rebound to last year's levels.
Countering the poor quarrying results are improvements in Rock of Ages' retail and manufacturing operations. The company has plans to expand its retail operations, and that seems like a good move, since the retail stores carry higher gross margins than do the quarries or manufacturing operations. Sales in the retail outlets were up 15% to $14.1 million for the quarter, and manufacturing operations generated sales of $7.7 million for a 22% gain over last year. Adding together the quarry, manufacturing, and retail revenue shows that Rock of Ages did $27.7 million in sales for the quarter, just slightly less than the $28 million from last year. The company's net loss of $8.1 million looks horrible, but it recorded an income tax expense of $9.5 million that was due to a write-off of deferred tax assets. Neglecting this expense, income was $1.4 million -- better than last year's $1.8 million net loss.
An unfortunate but nonetheless positive factor for this company is the trend in demographics. We're all getting older, and most of us will one day need headstones. Still, if you're a conservative investor, you might want to stay away from a company with such a small market cap. But if you're a bit more risk-tolerant, this business might just be solid enough to merit a look.