The recent selloff on Wall Street has me feeling pretty jolly. While everyone is focused on hurricanes, gas prices, and interest rates, the value investor in me will be watching how low some of those tickers can go. Leggett and Platt
In mid-September, the company guided lower, with estimated full-year earnings dropping from $1.61 per share to between $1.35 and $1.45. The culprit, of course, is higher raw material and energy costs, combined with weaker sales. The same findings have plagued many companies from a motley group of industries, including metal giant Alcoa
But the long-term investor will want to keep an eye on this company. Leggett and Platt is a diverse manufacturer of products such as fixtures, bedding, residential and office furniture, and even automotive seat components. Its products are found in practically every office, retail store, automobile, and home.
Leggett and Platt's value lies in its long history of success and a sound financial position. The company is no slouch, with 15% annual growth since going public in 1967 and more than 160 acquisitions under its belt in the last decade. Shareholders have been rewarded with a quite comfy 34 consecutive years of increased dividend payments. In addition, Leggett and Platt's sales currently comprise only 15% of an estimated $30 billion North American market, offering plenty of room to grow.
The company continues to generate strong cash flow. So strong, in fact, that it's been able to fund substantial acquisitions, capital expenditures, share buybacks, and dividend payments solely from operating cash flow. In the future, Leggett and Platt plans to put some of that cash toward reducing debt, which should strengthen an already sound balance sheet.
Given the stock's expected year-end P/E of under 14, and a forward P/E near 12, I would expect very limited downside risk. In fact, for the last 10 years, the average low P/E has been 14.1. In addition, the company pays a handsome dividend yield of 3.3%, and management appears to be on board, with executives owning 6% of shares outstanding.
But with primary raw materials that include steel and aluminum, many sleepless nights may haunt Leggett and Platt. The company purchases nearly 1.3 million tons of steel annually, accounting for roughly 17% of its cost of goods. It doesn't take long to figure out which way the stock will go if steel and aluminum prices subside (which is a big if).
Nevertheless, the opportunistic investor can often be rewarded when prices fall to unsustainable levels. The key, of course, is finding a value that will one day be realized -- not one that turns into fool's gold.
More potential junkheap jewels:
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Fool contributor M.D. Mitchell is down the street at the local junkyard looking for some good trash. He wishes he had the extra cash to get in on this steal. He holds no financial position in any of the above companies.