Update Cummins (CMI)

02/02/2011 2:29 pm EST


Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

Just goes to show you that Wall Street can find a problem in any earnings report—if analysts really want to.

Before the market opened yesterday, February 1, Cummins (CMI) reported fourth quarter 2010 earnings of $1.84 a share (12 cents a share above an analyst projections), revenue of $4.14 billion (above the $3.92 billion analyst projection), and raised guidance for 2011 to $16 billion (above the $15.94 billion consensus).

For the quarter, the company’s engine, components, and distribution segments all reported record sales. For 2011 Cummins forecast a 25% increase in sales for its engine and component units and a 15% increase in its power generation and distribution units. Demand from Brazil, China, and India was a key part in setting sales records with 37% growth in India and 70% growth in China and Brazil. (International sales now account of 64% of total sales, up from 40% in 2000.)

But was Wall Street totally happy? No way. Analysts nitpicked the company’s margins.

The company’s operating margin climbed to 13.1% for the fourth quarter, up from 11.4% in the fourth quarter of 2009, but—ready for the bombshell?—margins in some business segments didn’t match sales growth. In the truck engine business, for example, sales rose 21% from the third quarter, but operating margins plunged to 10.3% from 10.8%. In the power generation segment, sales rose by 14% from the third quarter but operating margins dropped to 10.2% from 12.3% in the third quarter.

Now I understand what analysts were getting at—were these declines in margins a sign that the company was letting costs get out of control.

I thought CEO Tim Solso and CFO Pat Ward had a very good answer for that question during the conference call. Yes, they noted, commodity costs (steel, aluminum, rubber, etc.) were on the rise but, thanks to its market share, the company said that it would be able to pass on at least some of these higher costs through a 1% increase in the price of its engines in 2011. Cummins has nearly 50% of the U.S. engine market, according to Morningstar, and its 2009 win at Daimler gives the company an increased profile in Europe.

I think we’re still early in the truck replacement cycle and the power generation unit is really just starting to rebound. I’d be a buyer of Cummins at the current price of $106.47 or (even better) on any weakness. As of February 2, I’m keeping my target price for Cummins in my Jubak’s Picks portfolio http://jubakpicks.com/ at $136.

Full disclosure: I don’t own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this post in my personal portfolio. The mutual fund I manage, Jubak Global Equity Fund, may or may not now own positions in any stock mentioned in this post. The fund did own shares of Cummins as of the end of December. For a full list of the stocks in the fund as of the end of December see the fund’s portfolio at http://jubakfund.com/about-the-fund/holdings/.
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