Sysco Delivers The Goods

By Sham Gad | February 03, 2010 AAA

When you can say that your business is the global leader in the selling and distribution of food products, a lot of things can go right - when the company is managed correctly. After all, Warren Buffett once commented that, when a mediocre company teams up with superb management, it's usually the reputation of the business that has the most impact. In Sysco's (NYSE:SYY) case, the situation appears to be the best of both: a business with excellent qualities alongside quality management.

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Feeding the Masses
Sysco is the dominant distributor to the food service industry, and it's the only major publicly-traded company in that industry. The company reaches over 400,000 customers. In the $200 billion primary market in which Sysco operates, it controls 17% of the market. In addition, Sysco has outpaced the industry, growing by 7% in the last decade versus 3% for the rest of the industry. Any significant restaurant company uses Sysco. From names like McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) and Wendy's/Arby's Group (NYSE:WEN) to the food service departments of major grocery chains like Kroger (NYSE:KR), Sysco is the go-to food service distributor.

Names like McDonald's also rely on Sysco for items like frying oil, while grocery food service departments count on the company for things like paper products, produce and cleaning supplies. And in between the giants, Sysco also serves the hundreds of regional restaurant chains across America. Having a major dependable supplier like Sysco insures that restaurants and food service departments alike have a reliable source for their most essential supplies. Imagine the effect on McDonald's if it could not access oil to prepare french fries.

Continued Success
Despite the difficult recession, which has been felt by Sysco, the company's dominant position in it's industry is proof positive of this company's excellent track record. For the second fiscal quarter, Sysco delivered EPS of 45 cents, up 12.5% year over year. This figure came against a sales decline of 3% in the quarter and a 5.7% decline in sales in the first half of fiscal 2010. Strapped consumers have reduced restaurant visits over the past year, and Sysco is not immune to that. Nevertheless, the company's extensive reach over the entire food service industry has taken Sysco through these difficult times relatively unscathed. And if the past decades are any indication of the future, Sysco will continue to prosper in the decade ahead. (For related reading, check out Recession-Proof Your Portfolio.)

A Good Bet for All Investors
Sysco's valuable assets and excellent future growth potential comes at a very reasonable price, despite shares currently trading near a 52-week high. The shares are currently priced at a fair 15-times earnings, which also includes a 3.6% dividend yield, to boot. Value and growth investors alike would be will advised to take notice. (For more, see 3 Secrets Of Successful Companies.)

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