Desktop Stock Ticker | 3 Companies With Fast, Organic Growth

3 Companies With Fast, Organic Growth

Activision-Blizzard (ATVI) and Thomson-Reuters (TRIN) posted huge sales increases last year, but only because of the mergers reflected in their hyphenated names. When one company buys another, it simply lumps the new sales in with its own for reporting purposes. Since no new business is created, the stock ticker price is often unaffected by the “growth.”

Organic growth is different. When a company’s sales surge, not because of a merger, but because of heated demand for its products and services, its stock ticker price can march higher. Whether it does depends on how expensive the stock ticker is to start, and whether the growth is faster or slower than investors are counting on. Rosetta Stone (RST), which makes language course software, reported May 11 after the market’s close that first-quarter sales had shot 41% higher than a year earlier. But investors clearly wanted more: Over the next two days, the stock ticker lost 25%.

In their most recent quarters, Netflix (NFLX), Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) and SalesForce.com (CRM) grew sales by 21%, 60% and 23%, respectively. But you’ll pay dearly for a piece of that growth. Shares of the movie-rental outfit sell for 26 times this year’s earnings forecast, the office coffee specialist is 61 times earnings and the business-software firm is 69 times earnings. The broad market, for comparison, is 17 times forecast 2009 earnings.

I recently went hunting for companies producing fast, organic sales growth, and which also have reasonable price/earnings ratios.

Fluor (FLR) builds oil refineries, power plants and other complex structures. With financing tight, project cancellations earlier this year, including a $2.1 billion Kuwait refinery, rattled investors, but shares have now rallied 47% in three months. On May 11 the company announced first-quarter sales increased 21% and earnings jumped 50%. New project awards were about as strong as a year ago. Shares still seem reasonable priced at 14 times earnings. The company enjoys a giant cash surplus but pays only a meager dividend, yielding less than 1%.

Unemployment hurts plenty of businesses, but not for-profit schools, which suddenly find themselves with a rush of jobless applicants. The trouble is, the trend isn’t lost on investors, and the likes of DeVry (DV) and Strayer (STRA) go for 20 and 28 times earnings, respectively. ITT Educational Services (ESI), which operates more than 100 technical schools in 37 states, sells for 13 times earnings and is growing fiercely. In its first quarter, student enrollment increased 37%, sales swelled 23% and earnings rose 47%.

Finally, Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) managed to produce a saucy 35% sales gain in its first quarter, including a 6.4% improvement at longstanding stores. The latter figure would have been 2.5 percentage points higher if not for a shift of Easter into April this year, management figures. Shares are almost 20 times earnings, which is a bit pricier than what I set out to find. But if Wall Street’s growth projections are to be believed, the stock ticker might be worth paying up for. Earnings are expected to climb 24% this year and 22% next year.

Screen Survivors
Company Ticker Industry Market
Value
($bil.)
Share
Price
Sales
Growth
Last Quarter
(%)
P/E
Fluor FLR Heavy construction 9.7 $53.82 21 14
ITT Educational Services ESI Schools 3.6 93.74 23 13
Buffalo Wild Wings BWLD Restaurants 0.6 32.79 35 20

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