I'll give credit where credit is due: Mohawk Industries
On Monday evening, Mohawk announced that it had reached an agreement to buy Belgian flooring company Unilin Holding NV for about $2.6 billion. Unilin, a player in laminate flooring, had put itself up for sale back in the spring, and it appears that Mohawk beat out some private equity groups for this particular prize.
Interestingly, Mohawk is keeping current Unilin management in place and giving the chairman of Unilin a place on its board of directors. That appears to be a good move. Part of the rationale for doing this deal was to use Unilin's position in Europe as an avenue to increase Mohawk's overall European sales and build upon its expertise in laminate flooring. Keeping current management around, then, should not only help keep the existing business on track, but also help educate and improve Mohawk's team.
With 18 acquisitions in the past 13 years, there is no doubt that acquisitions are a core strategy at Mohawk. The Dal-Tile acquisition, completed back in 2002, has worked out well. The company has produced compound annual sales growth of about 15% from that business -- not a bad top-line performance in this industry. The laminate flooring market is growing at a mid-teens rate, and this Unilin acquisition could prove just as successful -- perhaps even more so if the European market opportunity is fully exploited.
I wasn't that fond of Mohawk stock when last I wrote about the company in mid-February. Since then, the stock has dropped by nearly 10%. The company also posted a slight miss in the March quarter, and earnings estimates have been dropping a bit over the past few months.
While I do believe this deal will work out well for the company, it could take some time for the combined entity to generate enough returns to justify the purchase price. What's more, input costs will be a concern, as long as oil and chemicals prices are high, and some investors will no doubt shy away from a stock that they see as potentially vulnerable to a slowdown in housing. Should enough investors shy away, though, the stock of this company could start to become a bit more interesting.
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned.