Lower Target Price for Middleby

08/19/2009 2:20 pm EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

On August 12, Middleby (NYSE: MIDD) reported second quarter earnings of 74 cents a share. That was seven cents a share below Wall Street expectations. Revenue also came in light at $159 million versus the $170 million Wall Street had projected.

Middleby has attempted to keep growing its business by acquiring smaller competitors and targeting potential top-tier customers with a new sales team. That strategy is sound in the long run considering the company operates in a fragmented industry and many of its competitors in the commercial kitchen equipment/cooking unit business are currently stressed by a combination of tighter lending standards and slower business.

But that long-term strategy has short-term costs because the company has to keep on spending even as its own revenue comes under pressure in the recession. (It’s hard to grow when your customers are struggling. See my August 3 update on McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD) for how the best in the sector is doing and then project down from there.)

In past quarters, the company has said that it hoped to be able to wring sufficient cost savings out of its current business so that the falloff in current revenue—which fell 8.6% from the second quarter of 2008—wouldn’t too badly ding earnings.

This quarter qualifies as a “ding.” But I think the emphasis on the long term is the right way to go despite the short-term ding.

As of August 19, I’m setting a new, lower target price for Middleby (lower in recognition of the likelihood that this will be a slow economic recovery) of $65 a share (down from $75) by July 2010. (Full disclosure: I own shares of Middleby in my personal portfolio.)

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