Even with a five-week-old strike costing it about $2 million a day, Goodyear
The strength of the quarter -- and it was across the board, as all five tire segments reported increased revenues -- had much to do with the tire maker's ability to raise prices and push its premium tires into the mix, because actual unit sales were down after its exit from the private-label business. Importantly, Goodyear's North American market, which accounts for half of its sales, saw revenues increase nearly 12% over last year. Rival Cooper Tire & Rubber
The market was heartened by Goodyear's numbers and pushed the stock up 15%, which may have left some investors scratching their heads, considering it reported a loss while analysts had been expecting a gain of $0.24 per share. Yet a lot of one-time costs were bundled into the earnings statement, including expenses of $107 million, or $0.60 per share, for shutting down a plant in Texas. Last year's results were also bolstered by one-time gains of $0.10 per share. In total, Goodyear actually exceeded expectations.
This is why I've viewed this tire maker as an investment consideration for some time now. Since the bungling of its accounting practices, Goodyear has been steadfastly following a program for returning to profitability. And although its pension plan remains a dark cloud on the horizon, it has been progressively paying down its long-term debt so that it now stands at $4.6 billion -- still a sizeable sum, to be sure, but moving in the right direction.
Its decision to stand firm with the unions, even though it has cost the company in the short term, means it is committed to remaining competitive internationally. Moving some production overseas to China -- like many of its competitors are doing, including Cooper, Michelin, Bridgestone, and Continental -- means that it will be able to lower costs. Raw materials expenses are still high, costing the company $249 million in the quarter, but it was able to offset those costs by as much as $225 million with higher prices and an improved product mix.
As the business returns to a firm financial footing, settles its labor disputes, and continues to focus on premium products produced at lower cost, it should be able to exceed growth expectations. I believe Goodyear's stock is undervalued by as much as 40% at its current price, and that -- barring new oil-price shocks or other such calamities that might rock the economy -- it could be worth as much as $30 a share in a few years.
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