"Dude, you should've seen this fish. I swear, it was this big [demonstrates, spreading arms wide] -- but it got away."
Everyone's got a favorite fish story, and now, oven maker and Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation Middleby
No, no. We're not talking high tech today. Remember that this is Hidden Gems -- investing for high profits in low-profile stocks. You don't get much lower-profile than the kitchen equipment business. That's what Middleby is in -- building ovens for use in commercial restaurants. It's Enodis' stock in trade, too (fryers, grills, and especially refrigeration equipment used by fast-food players like McDonald's
As you may recall, Middleby wanted to buy Enodis itself back in 2006, offering about $1.5 billion in hopes of generating an urge to merge in the London company. No dice. Enodis declared that Middleby's offer "significantly undervalued the company and its prospects," and held out for a bid purported to be in the offing from United Technologies
That bid never came (at least, not that I've heard of). But patience proved a virtue for Enodis nonetheless. Two years after Middleby refused to meet Enodis' asking price, Manitowoc yesterday offered to buy Enodis lock, stock, and fish barrel for the equivalent of $1.9 billion plus assumed debt.
So how big was that 'fish,' anyway?
By holding out for two years, Enodis managed to increase its purchase price by 27%, so the fish in this story made out pretty well. But that still leaves the question of how big of a fish Middleby let slip through its fingers, and into Manitowoc's grasp.
Middleby made its bid in 2006, a year of strong growth for Enodis -- 15% year-over-year improvement in revenue, and 54% profits growth. But that growth has since stalled. In 2007, Enodis posted just 5% improvement in both revenue and profits. Maybe Manitowoc thinks 5% growth was worth the premium it paid, but from this Fool's point of view, Middleby made the right choice in refusing to pay up, and letting this fish get away.