This is a company in a boring industry (utility poles and rail ties while moving into other lumber segments recently), but this boring company has simply crushed expectations and the market for years. Look at the chart below.
It’s that top right corner of the chart that has caught my interest. That part where this beautiful 45 degree line stops going directly up and to the right. The reason that this is really interesting is because this is the chart for the share price obviously, but the revenue, net income, and dividend charts have continues up and to the right. Eventually the above chart will continue up as well.
From 2011 to the year ended 2015 assets have increased almost 300%, as has shareholders equity. They’ve grown revenue from $640 million to $1.559 billion. Earnings per share rose from $0.87 to $2.04. The dividend has risen from $0.13 to $0.40 today.
The most recent earnings release showed net income rise another 16%, debt reduced by $92 million in the quarter, and sales in their newer residential lumber division increased over 100%.
Shares have been mostly flat and because of this can be bought for a very fair P/E of 17. When a company is growing by 16% per year that’s an excellent multiple. That’s a PEG of 1.07x for a company with lots of potential acquisitions out there, breaking into a new market (residential), and having enviable organic growth of approximately 6%.
From what I can see shares have not risen due to slightly lower sales in the rail tie and utility pole divisions, which are what people associate with SJ. In the 3rd quarter tie sales were down by 7% and utility poles down by 6.2%. This could look disconcerting, and obviously has the market worried, but growth in the other divisions is encouraging and even in a down quarter sales still increased by 18% to a record $512 million. And the purchase of railway ties and utility poles can only be put off so long, so this decrease now may persist for a couple quarters but will surely reverse.
The stock was absolutely punished for announcing preliminary results, telling investors that sales and income in the fourth quarter will be down. It presented a tremendous buying opportunity as shares dropped to around $38. Shares have since recovered to over $41, but that’s still far closer to the 52 week low than the 52 week high.
Stella Jones still shows strong organic growth but most importantly, management has shown they are great at accretive acquisitions and this should remain a strong driver of growth for the stock. Utility pole sales will not stay depressed. Railway tie sales will not stay depressed. If for some reason these two segments of their business do remain under pressure, that should present the company opportunities for acquisitions at a discount. Residential lumber sales are going to increase organically, and is where it seems the company is focusing on growing.
This is a fantastic company and I kick myself every day, as I looked at this company 5 years ago and in my naivety didn’t want to pay over 20x P/E. I know I’ll be very happy holding this stock long term, both by the share price growing and the dividend continuing to rise. I feel it’s often overlooked by retail investors because of the boring industry but there is nothing boring about the returns it has delivered.
Disclosure: Long SJ.