Saturday, November 10, 2007

Industry Review (continued......)

Entertainment: Lin TV Corp. (TVL)
This is a diverse industry and currently different segments within the industry are doing better than others. Cable television and outdoor advertising (companies involved in this area are Clear Channel and CBS Corp.) are two niches leading the way lately while overall broadcast television and radio has lagged. Companies such as Viacom, Time Warner, and New Corp are benefiting from increased Cable TV ownership. There are always new niches opening in this industry and companies are investing in online, digital, and gaming assets to grow profits and preserve long-term prospects.

The company in focus for this sector is Lin TV Corp (TVL). The company owns and operates 29 television stations to 9% of U.S. television homes, reaching an average of 11.5 million households per week. The company enjoyed a healthy 2006 due to heavy political advertising which has subsequently decreased in 2007 and hurt results. The company is expanding its internet efforts and internet-only revenues increased by 58% in the latest quarter. New Internet products in development include search optimization tools; political micro-sites; hyper-local high school football websites; local automotive classified advertising services, and other community driven, hyper-local micro-sites. The stock, which hit a high of over $20 per share, is trading at just above $11 per share today. There does seem to be an opportunity to buy at this lower price and wait until the 2008 elections to drive advertising revenues, and hopefully the stock price, back up for Lin TV.

Chemical/Diversified: Westlake Chemical Corp (WLK)
The Chemical/Diversified Industry has performed well recently benefiting from nine consecutive months of expansion from the manufacturing sector and general consensus is this should continue for a little longer. Companies serving the commercial aerospace sector such as Cytec Industries and Excel are enjoying strong demand right now from Airbus and Boeing. The agricultural sector is also doing well for the benefit of companies such as Monsanto. The U.S. auto and housing sectors are obviously not faring as well effecting companies such as PEG Industries and Cabot. Overall, this industry is tied to the different industries it serves and thus different for each company within it.

Westlake Chemical Corporation (WLK) is an example of a company being hurt by the downturn in the housing sector. This company is facing margin pressure due to increasing costs which it is unable to pass the price increase to its customers due to the housing market downturn. This has hurt net income and the stock has been steadily decreasing all year. S&P also recently downgraded the company due to the company’s $457 million in debt and questioned its ability to weather the housing downturn if conditions worsen. It will be interesting to see how companies like this without any real product differentiation respond if the housing market continues to worsen.

Machinery: Middleby Corp. (MIDD)
Companies in this industry that service the energy, mining, commercial construction, power, and agricultural markets are having real success right now, especially those not as dependent on the U.S. market. Companies such as AGCO, Manitowoc and Robbins & Myers are having success from increased demand for agricultural equipment due to high crop prices. Stock prices for many companies in this industry have increased substantially recently to reflect the generally positive prospects for the industry in the long-term.

Middleby Corporation (MIDD) provides cooking equipment such conveyor ovens, convection ovens, fryers, ranges, toasters, and broilers to the commercial foodservice industry including restaurants, hotels, resorts, schools, hospitals, long-term care and correctional facilities, stadiums, airports, cafeterias, military facilities, and government agencies. The stock price recently jumped close to 15% due to higher than expected revenue and income growth attributed to recent acquisitions. The company has a return on capital of over 27% and increasing revenues and margins. Seems like an interesting company since it is so successful and still relatively unknown and under-followed.

Trucking: Knight Transportation Inc (KNX)
This is a highly cyclical industry and is currently near the bottom of the cycle. The trucking industry is facing high fuel prices, intense competition and low customer demand. More than 66% of all manufactured and retailed goods in the U.S. are transported by truck. The industry is thus highly dependent on the health of the U.S. economy and is hurt by decreasing consumer confidence and slowing GDP growth. Stricter emission standards means there are more trucks on the road but the lower demand for them has led to aggressive price-cutting. Analysts are saying the downturn in this trucking industry is the most severe of the last four over the past twenty years. Key terms in this industry include truckload (TL) and less-than-truckload (LTL). TLs carry freight directly from origin to destination, while LTLs transport small shipments, typically through a network of terminals.

Knight Transportation, Inc. (KNX) provides asset-based dry van truckload and temperature controlled truckload carrier services primarily to short-to-medium lengths of haul. It operates 3,412 company-owned tractors; 249 contract tractors; and 8,761 high cube trailers, including 626 temperature controlled trailers. The company recently reported a decrease in net profit of 23% attributed to weak demand and low equipment utilization which caused them to have to cut prices. The company has no long-term debt so it should have no trouble surviving this downturn.

Air Transport: Uti Worldwide Inc (UTIW)
This sector is enjoying growth outside the United States and facing increasing price pressures within it. High fuel costs continue to pressure the bottom line. Competition is fierce in this industry and companies like Jet Blue that offer low fares have had success. Whenever I think of this industry I think of Branson’s line that if you want to be a millionaire you should start as a billionaire and buy an airline. Regardless, airlines like Southwest have shown that it is possible to have a great investment with an airline.

An interesting company in this industry is UTi Worldwide (UTIW). This company provides a global freight forwarding and logistics network capable of serving as its clients' single-source international shipping solution. From Morningstar, UTI provides a service for “Transporting goods for a component manufactured in the Midwest, bound for an assembly plant in Romania. A pallet must be trucked to a consolidation facility to be packed into an ocean container, driven to a sea port, and loaded on a ship. Upon arrival in Romania, appropriate trucks are contracted for delivery to a deconsolidation center, warehouse, or client. Along the route, reliable pickups and deliveries must be arranged in advance to avoid delays, and appropriate tariffs and import/export documentation have to be compiled in the appropriate languages and currencies. Throughout this process, timeliness, status visibility, and the ability to divert a delivery are essential. A third-party logistics firm removes this hassle by establishing relationships with air and ocean lines, trucking firms and warehouses and developing know-how for negotiating legal import and export in nations spread throughout the world.” The company has a diverse customer base with no customer contributing more than 3% of revenues. This diverse network provides the company with a competitive advantage that should serve them well in future years.

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