2012 was a pretty good year for investors prescient (or aggressive) enough to get in early to housing-sensitive names such as Louisiana-Pacific (NYSE:LPX), Mohawk (NYSE:MHK) and Valspar (NYSE:VAL). While housing hasn't really recovered just yet, investors seem happy enough with signs of a real bottom and the improving sales at the home improvement warehouse chains. Curiously, however, despite a meaningful exposure to these markets RPM International (NYSE:RPM) hasn't shared in all of the enthusiasm. Now the question is whether it should, and whether that catch-up trade can fuel further gains in the shares.

Introduction To Dividends: Investing in dividend-paying stocks can be an effective method of building long-term wealth.

Is OK Performance in the Second Quarter Good Enough?
RPM didn't really have a banner fiscal second quarter, but it was certainly no disaster either. Revenue rose 11% as reported, with growth in the consumer business of nearly 19% and growth in the industrial category of almost 8%. As has always been the case, acquisitions are a huge part of RPM's growth; the company's organic growth for the quarter was 6% in the consumer business and 3% in industrial. This industrial result was a little softer than expected, due in part to weaker conditions in Europe and commercial roofing in the U.S.

Where RPM did all right, however, was in the margins. Regrettably, the company did not provide volume/price performance information in its press release, but the 150 basis point improvement in gross margin strongly suggests that much of the company's organic growth was price-based. Operating income rose 9%, with strong growth in the consumer business (up 44%) and flat performance in industrial (up 7% excluding an investment write-down).

Is RPM's Residential Business Underappreciated?
As I indicated above, numerous stocks tied to the U.S. residential market had banner years for 2012, as investors have become far more confident that the worst has passed. Curiously, RPM doesn't seem to be getting full credit.

RPM gets about 30% of its revenue from the U.S. residential market, more in fact than Valspar or PPG (NYSE:PPG). While RPM does not have a paint business, products such as Zinsser, Rust-Oleum and DAP are all pretty likely to do well in that construction/remodeling/renovation recovery that has to come sooner or later. Along similar lines, while RPM is very likely to remain focused on serial tuck-in deals, I would completely rule out the possibility of organic growth simply because it's been so long since we've really seen much of that from the company.

Try, Try Again Overseas
RPM wrote down even more of its investment in Indian composite materials company Kemrock this quarter, as those shares continue to struggle in India. Indeed, 2012 was a nightmare for this company, as the shares plunged from about Rs 510 to around Rs 82 recently and sales have eroded by nearly 50% recently.

Still, I doubt that this one bad investment will, or should, dissuade the company from further emerging market ventures. There's plenty of growth to be had in markets such as India, Brazil and Turkey, and RPM can likely use select overseas acquisitions and investments not only as a way of adding local brands and capacity, but also using existing in-country channels to broaden foreign sales of its existing products.

The Bottom Line
By and large, I have generally thought that investors think too highly of RPM International and award the shares too high of a premium. Even so, the shares are still up more than 40% over the past five years, so it has hardly been a terrible holding.

At roughly 11 times trailing EBTIDA, I still believe these shares are likely too pricey. Even if revenue continues to grow at a 5% to 6% pace in the future (versus about 7% over the trailing decade) and free cash flow margins improve into the high single digits (consistent with, or superior to, PPG, Valspar and Sherwin-Williams (NYSE:SHW)), the 8% or so implied free cash flow growth suggests a fair value in the mid to high $20 range.

Given that these shares seem pretty fully valued, and the company has never been a tremendous performer in terms of metrics like return on invested capital (ROIC), I'm inclined to think that the market basically has this stock correctly valued for now.

At the time of writing, Stephen D. Simpson did not own any shares in any company mentioned in this article.

Related Articles
  1. Stock Analysis

    Allstate: How Being Boring Earns it Billions (ALL)

    A summary of what Allstate Insurance sells and whom it sells it to including recent mergers and acquisitions that have helped boost its bottom line.
  2. Options & Futures

    Cyclical Versus Non-Cyclical Stocks

    Investing during an economic downturn simply means changing your focus. Discover the benefits of defensive stocks.
  3. Investing Basics

    How to Deduct Your Stock Losses

    Held onto a stock for too long? Selling at a loss is never ideal, but it is possible to minimize the damage. Here's how.
  4. Economics

    Is Wall Street Living in Denial?

    Will remaining calm and staying long present significant risks to your investment health?
  5. Stock Analysis

    When Will Dick's Sporting Goods Bounce Back? (DKS)

    Is DKS a bargain here?
  6. Investing News

    How AT&T Evolved into a Mobile Phone Giant

    A third of Americans use an AT&T mobile phone. How did it evolve from a state-sponsored monopoly, though antitrust and a technological revolution?
  7. Stock Analysis

    Home Depot: Can its Shares Continue Climbing?

    Home Depot has outperformed the market by a wide margin in the last 12 months. Is this sustainable?
  8. Stock Analysis

    Yelp: Can it Regain its Losses in 2016? (YELP)

    Yelp investors have had reason to be happy recently. Will the good spirits last?
  9. Stock Analysis

    Is Walmart's Rally Sustainable? (WMT)

    Walmart is enjoying a short-term rally. Is it sustainable? Is Amazon still a better bet?
  10. Stock Analysis

    GoPro's Stock: Can it Fall Much Further? (GPRO)

    As a company that primarily sells discretionary products, GoPro and its potential falls right in line with consumer trends. Is that good or bad?
  1. How do dividends affect retained earnings?

    When a company issues a cash dividend to its shareholders, the retained earnings listed on the balance sheet are reduced ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What is the difference between called-up share capital and paid-up share capital?

    The difference between called-up share capital and paid-up share capital is investors have already paid in full for paid-up ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Why would a corporation issue convertible bonds?

    A convertible bond represents a hybrid security that has bond and equity features; this type of bond allows the conversion ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How does additional paid in capital affect retained earnings?

    Both additional paid-in capital and retained earnings are entries under the shareholders' equity section of a company's balance ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What types of capital are not considered share capital?

    The money a business uses to fund operations or growth is called capital, and there are a number of capital sources available. ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What is the difference between issued share capital and subscribed share capital?

    The difference between subscribed share capital and issued share capital is the former relates to the amount of stock for ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center