“Seven Times More Profitable Than Apple with Zero Competition”

What's Cabot's August "Stock of the Month?"

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, August 20, 2014

Now that Apple is a few weeks from the release of their next i-device, lots of teasers will come floating out about “better than Apple” or “buy this before Apple’s new iPhone” or the like. That’s a pattern we’ve seen ever since the original iPhone sent shares of suppliers soaring — or, indeed, even before that when suppliers to the iPod (remember when that was the world’s breakthrough “must have” product?) could double in a matter of weeks.

But this time our “more profitable than Apple” stock has, well, nothing to do with Apple at all. This is a teaser pitch for the August “Stock of the Month” from the Cabot folks, who similarly tease us most months about the next hot stock on their radar — Cabot Stock of the Month is one of those “entry level” newsletters that tries to take the best idea from across a publisher’s stable of letters and share it each month. Last time we looked at this letter a couple months ago it was teasing Qualcomm (which is an Apple supplier, coincidentally), which is a fine stock but fell after their last earnings result because of soft forward guidance… so what are they teasing this time?

Here’s how they get us interested:

“Just Look at My August Stock of the Month and You’ll See Why I Can Make You this Money Doubling Guarantee

  1. This company is riding a wave of unstoppable growth that’s already made it seven times more profitable than Apple, handing investors 1,446% annual average gains since March of 1992. That’s enough to turn a $10,000 investment into $3.2 million!
  2. Analysts expect the company to deliver another double-digit earnings surprise not only for Q3 but also for FY 2014—all while they’re projecting another 21% earnings growth for FY 2015.
  3. When you add to that the fact that the company has virtually no competition in its space, you can see why I’m willing to back this recommendation with a 12-month guarantee.”

And some specific clues? You betcha — here’s what they give us:

“… this is the kind of company that Ray Kroc worked for before he founded McDonald’s $75 billion empire.

“But instead of selling milkshake mixers across the country, the family behind this monopoly-like fortune manufactured and sold ovens to restaurants.

“Today, they’ve expanded their operations to not only making dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers and ice machines but also mixers, slicers, shredders, drink dispensers, and ventilation systems”

And they provide a long list of their customers, including pretty much every fast food or fast-casual restaurant chain you’ve ever heard of, and say that…

“… they dominate this sector no differently than Apple dominates digital music, Sirrus dominates satellite radio, and Space X dominates commercial space in the United States—only their profits are much, much bigger.

“So it’s no wonder that the world’s top 20 institutional and mutual fund holders own nearly $8 billion worth of this company’s shares.”

So who is it? Thinkolator says it’s certainly Middleby (MIDD), which has been around for 126 years after starting as Middleby Marshall, a producer of industrial-strength “movable ovens” (think assembly line).

And this stock always makes me a big grouchy, because I owned it back in 2005 at around seven or eight dollars a share (split adjusted) and sold most of it at a 100% gain a year or so later because it was getting a really pricey growth valuation (I had bought it because I thought it was cheap). A quick look at the chart will tell you that after it fell back down to $8 or so during the financial crisis it proceeded to become one of the great growth stocks of the last five years — getting over $100 a share for a while before coming back down to the current mid-$80s. I’ve glanced at it a few times along the way, but the weight of my personal experience with the stock (“I missed it”) has kept me from getting back in.

Which is a personal failing, I recognize. One of the many psychological things that keeps us out of good investments. But recognizing the mistake doesn’t mean I can always avoid it.

Middleby has been brilliantly built through acquisition by CEO Selim Bassoul.. and they’re not quite a monopoly provider of food service equipment, but they do get awfully close to that in some segments, particularly when it comes to their quick-cook ovens or conveyor ovens that you see in pretty much every fast food place or food court. They’ve been growing earnings at a 20%+ clip pretty consistently for years, and analysts think they’ll continue to grow earnings at 20% or more a year for the next five years (though it’s expected to be down from that slightly in 2014, with growth of 17% anticipated).

So it’s definitely a growth stock, a play on the continuing wave of restaurant growth around the world and the need to continue upgrading and making restaurants faster and more efficient… and more recently, with their acquisition of Viking, it’s become somewhat of a play on housing. And it’s priced as a growth stock at about 26X earnings.

If they are able to come anywhere near those analyst growth estimates (and the next year’s estimates have been rising lately), then that’s actually a pretty nice price to pay for the stock — and a $5 billion industrial stock that’s growing earnings at 20% and has been consistently very well managed for a decade, well, that’s nothing to sneeze at… but they probably do have to keep the acquisitions train going if they’re going to continue to grow like this. (Yes, I thought they were going to start having to see growth tail off eight years ago, too, since they were looking expensive then at 30+ times earnings, but growth has kept rolling right along).

As a growth stock, they’ve had some big ups and downs — up big when they beat on earnings back in February, down pretty sharply when they disappointed on earnings three months later — but over the long run it has worked out pretty well. I think I first hear of it from Tom Gardner at the Motley Fool back in the early 2000s when it was a small cap stock, maybe in 2003 or 2004 (I don’t think I’ve written about them since Stock Gumshoe launched back in 2007) … so if he’s been recommending it all along the way that’s been a nice ride.

Of course, I’m still bitter… so take your own opinion on this one and let ‘er rip — use the friendly little comment box below if you’ve got a perspective to s