Update Middleby (MIDD)

11/23/2009 3:00 pm EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

On November 10 Middleby (MIDD) reported third quarter earnings of 83 cents a share, four cents a share better than Wall Street projections, but still 19% down from the third quarter of 2008. Revenue fell 7.5% from the third quarter of 2008. At $154 million revenue was about $10 million below the Wall Street consensus.

If you used a magnifying glass, you could find signs of improvement in the revenue number. In the second quarter of 2009 revenue was down 8.6% from the second quarter of 2008. In the third quarter of 2009 the year-to-year decline was just 7.2%.

And in the earnings number too. Gross margin climbed to 40.3% in the quarter from 38.9% in the third quarter of 2008.

Middleby continues to do what it has always done.

 Acquire companies to increase market share. Put acquisitions and continuing operations under the cost-cutting knife. Fund acquisitions out of cash flow. And pay down debt. In the quarter Middleby paid own $26 million in debt. That helped trim interest costs by $371,000 in the quarter.

The company projects that conditions in commercial kitchen equipment/cooking unit business will remain “challenging” (their word not mine) into the first half of 2010.

I think this is a well run company that is positioned to take advantage of any economic recovery and the resulting upturn in store openings among restaurant chains and an increase in those companies’ spending on new equipment from Middleby that can reduce their operating costs.

As of November 23, 2009 I’m keeping my target price at $65 a share but stretching out the time table to November 2010 from July 2010.

Full disclosure: I own shares of Middleby in my personal portfolio.

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