Ball Corp Packaging Consistency

By Ryan C. Fuhrmann | May 02, 2012 AAA

Ball Corp (NYSE:BLL) makes cans, bottles and related metal containers for the beverage, food and personal care industries. This stable underlying demand has allowed Ball to grow steadily for more than a decade, and growth in emerging markets should allow it to continue to post visible, consistent growth going forward.

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First Quarter Recap
Sales growth was modest at 1.6% to just over $2 billion. The metal, food and household packaging unit in the Americas was the primary laggard, reporting a 4.1% top line decline, though it only accounted for about 16% of total sales. The other three segments, including the beverage packaging operations in the Americas and Asia (a single operating unit) and Europe, as well as aerospace and technologies posted positive, albeit moderate growth. Major customers likely include industry bellwethers such as Coca Cola (NYSE:KO), PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP), Molson Coors Brewing (NYSE:TAP) and Boeing (NYSE:BA)

Segment profit growth was more mixed, falling in the Americas and Asian beverage packaging and Americas food and household packaging, but increasing in aerospace and technologies as well as European beverage manufacturing. Total operating profits fell 4.8% to $203.4 million. Backing out corporate overhead, pre-tax earnings fell 17.5% to $121.6 million. A drop in tax expenses tempered the bottom line decline to 3.3% as net income decreased to $88.3 million. Share buybacks allowed earnings per diluted share to increase 3.7% to $0.55.

SEE: A Breakdown Of Stock Buybacks

Outlook and Valuation
Analysts project full year sales growth just north of 3.3% and total sales of nearly $9 billion. The consensus earnings projection currently stands at $3.11 for double-digit annual profit growth. At the current share price of $42, the forward P/E is 12.2.

The Bottom Line
For around a decade now, Ball has consistently leveraged modest single-digit sales growth into a double-digit annual profit growth. This year should be no exception and Ball is in the process of adding production capacity in Brazil, China and Vietnam. There doesn't look to be much potential for valuation expansion as the current earnings multiple is right at Ball's average over the past five years, but the stock does offer a combination of a reasonable valuation and growth levels going forward.

SEE: 5 Must-Have Metrics For Value Investors

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At the time of writing, Ryan C. Fuhrmann did not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article.

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