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After shrinking for four straight quarters, the U.S. GDP expanded by 2.8% in the 3rd quarter, reversing the longest straight decline for the usually robust United States economy since the Great Depression of the 1930's. Even so, the economic recovery remains fragile. Latest figures from the post-Thanksgiving "black Friday" shopping suggest that while individual spending dipped 8% per person, total weekend spending actually climbed 0.5% from last year.
On the jobs front, all we see is that the rate of decline is diminishing, lending hope that an improvement may actually be seen in the not-too-distant future. However, news that initial jobless claims came in at 466,000 last week is only good news from the perspective that this was the lowest level since September, 2008. It is still hard in absolute terms to become very excited about the news that another 1/2 million Americans are submitting new claims for unemployment!
Meanwhile gold is soaring to near-record levels hitting $1,136.80/ounce on Friday after pulling back in the face of the Dubai World events. On top of this the dollar has shown continued weakness, dropping to a 14 year low against the Yen as the Fed continues to utilize rock-bottom interest rates to try to kickstart the economy. In spite of the slowly turning economy in the United States, politicians like Ron Paul are seeking to exert more influence over the machinations of the Fed. Meanwhile, Bernanke and the Fed are trying to fight back to retain independence.
In spite of all of this, I agree with Warren Buffett, probably one of the wisest investors of the century, who is still bullish on America's Future. (Watch Warren Buffett on YouTube here.)
With all of that in mind, I do not believe that many of the companies we look for on this blog will go out of business and that the stock market will never recover.
I continue to look for quality companies reporting good earnings with good track records. One such company is Medtronic (MDT), a stock that I first reviewed six years ago, on November 13, 2003 (excuse my 'title' which mistakenly says 2002.) I do not currently own any shares of Medtronic (MDT) but my wife does own a few shares (amounting on one year's contribution) to her IRA that she purchased several years ago. Medtronic (MDT) closed at $42.99 on November 27, 2009, down $(.19) or (.44)% on the day.
According to the Yahoo "Profile" on Medtronic (MDT), the company
"...develops, manufactures, and sells device-based medical therapies worldwide."
These devices address cardiac rhythm problems, neuromodulation treatment, diabetes treatment, surgical treatment and physio-control equipment.
Medtronic made the news last week after reporting surprisingly strong 2nd quarter 2010 results. Revenue for the quarter came in at $3.84 billion, up 8% from last year's $3.57 billion. Earnings for the quarter came in at$868 million or $.78/share in the quarter ended October 30, 2009, up from $547 million or $.48/share the prior year. Adjusted income was $850 million or $.77/share.
Financial results should never be reviewed 'in a vacuum'. It certainly is important whether the company reports positive or negative growth, but at least as important is the expectations that were held by analysts and others regarding the event as the event itself. In this case, analysts had been expecting revenue of $3.75 billion and Medtronic exceeded expectations coming in at $3.84 billion. In terms of the earnings figure, analysts had expected earnings of $.74/share, and the company again exceeded these expectations with its $.77/share (adjusted) result!
In today's difficult economic environment, fewer companies are offering earnings guidance, so for a company like Medtronic (MDT) to not only offer guidance, but also to raise guidance to a range of $3.17 to $3.22 a share, from prior projections of $3.10 to $3.20/share ahead of analysts forecasts of $3.15/share is also quite encouraging.
In general, I prefer to identify companies that have uninterrupted revenue and earnings growth for inclusion in this blog. But it would be inopportune to ignore companies like Medtronic (MDT) which have indeed experienced a dip in recent financial results in the face of a global slowdown rivaling the Great Depression, yet now appear to be returning to their regular pattern of growth. These are companies that need to be identified by a successful investor.
Reviewing the Morningstar.com "5-Yr Restated" financials on Medtronic (MDT), we can see that revenue growth has been steady from $10.1 billion in 2005 to $14.6 billion in 2009 and $14.8 billion in the trailing twelve months (TTM). Earnings grew steadily from 2005 at $1.50/share to 2007 when they reported $2.40/share. However, since that time earnings have dipped to $1.93/share in 2009 and $1.69/share in the TTM. However, with the current report discussed above, hopefully, this trend is being reversed.
Medtronic (MDT) has continued to pay dividends and to increase that payment regularly without interruption from $.34/share in 2005 to $.75/share in 2009 and $.77/share in the TTM. Outstanding shares have been tightly controlled and actually reduced with 1.2 billion in 2005, graduallly decreased each year to 1.12 billion in the TTM.
Free cash flow has been positive and increasing (except for a mild dip in the TTM) from $2.4 billion in 2007 to $3.38 billion in 2009 (and $3.18 billion in the TTM).
The balance sheet appears solid with $1.0 billion in cash and $6.3 billion in other current assets with only $3.1 billion of current liabilities yielding a 'current ratio' of 2.35. Morningstar reports the company with another $7.3 billion in long-term liabilities.
In terms of valuation, looking at the Yahoo "Key Statistics" on MDT, we find that this is a large cap company with a market cap of $47.58 Billion. The company sells with a trailing p/e of 21.65 with a forward p/e of 12.28. Even with the relatively 'rich' valuation of its p/e, the PEG ratio (5 yr expected earnings) comes in at a reasonable 1.24 (from my perspective).
Yahoo reports 1.11 billion shares outstanding with 1.10 billion that float. As of November 13, 2009, there were 13.74 million shares out short representing only 2 days of average trading volume, below my own arbitrary 3 day rule for significance for the short interest ratio.
The company pays a forward dividend rate of $.82/share with a forward annual dividend yield of 1.9%. The payout ratio is a fairly 'safe' 40%, and the last stock split was a 2:1 split more than 10 years ago paid in September, 1999.
Finally, if we take a look at the Medtronic (MDT) 'point & figure' chart from StockCharts.com, we can see that the stock was trading in a fairly tight range between $41 and a high of $56 (that it hit three times) before turning lower in October, 2008, along with the rest of the market, to bottom at $24/share in February, 2009. The stock has rallied strongly since, and hit a recent level of $43/share last week before pulling back a bit on Friday.
To summarize, Medtronic (MDT) appears to be recovering and regaining some of its previous growth characteristics that suffered during the recent economic slowdown. They reported a terrific quarter and expressed optimism about the future by raising guidance. Longer-term, they have continued to grow their revenue while experiencing a mild set-back in earnings, increased their dividend, and have retired shares on a regular basis. They have outstanding free cash flow growth, a solid balance sheet, and a chart that is looking more optimistic.
On a Peter Lynch level, with an aging population struggling with obesity, heart disease numbers may well soar, and recently predictions of a doubling of diabetes victims have recently been announced. Against all of this is the perceived threat of healthcare reform that may introduce more regulation into healthcare in America but will also bring 30 to 40 million new patients into doctors' offices and hospitals.
I do not own any shares of MDT now, but this is the kind of stock I would be purchasing if I had the 'signal' from my own portfolio to be buying shares in a new holding.
Thanks again for stopping by and visiting my blog! If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them right on the website or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yours in investing,