Numbers, like CEOs desperate to make their numbers, can fool you if you're not careful. It's not their fault, really (the numbers, that is, not the CEOs) -- they just can't help it. That's why it's always important to dig beneath the numbers and get as full a picture as you can.
I mention this because American Standard
Fourth-quarter results were OK on a "whole company" basis. Sales were up more than 8% as reported, and although operating margin fell and adjusted earnings per share were flat with the year-ago level, that was all that was really expected.
Beyond the headline numbers, though, there was some troubling turbulence. American Standard's air conditioning business is doing great -- sales were up nearly 19%, and segment net income was up more than 57% as the backlog rose at a mid-teens clip. But the bath and kitchen business is not. This business saw sales drop about 5%, and segment income was just a fraction of the year-ago level. What's worse, this is something like the fourth quarter in a row when results here haven't been too good. In the company's other business, the vehicle controls group (Wabco), sales were down 4%, but adjusted income was flat.
Some might look at the bath/kitchen business and say, "Ah hah! Housing is slowing down," but that's not my explanation. Frankly, I just think that competitors like Kohler, Masco
The stock doesn't really excite me today, despite those nice numbers that I mentioned in the beginning. Given the differences between the A/C, kitchen/bath, and vehicle businesses and the fact that the latter two aren't really helping investors much today, I wouldn't be terribly surprised to see the company come under pressure to sell or spin off those units. Maybe that would unlock some value in the long run, but either way, this stock still doesn't meet my standard for a good investment idea.
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).