Investors love stocks that consistently beat the Street without getting ahead of their fundamentals and risking a meltdown. The best stocks offer sustainable market-beating gains, with robust and improving financial metrics that support strong price growth. Does Select Comfort Corp. (NASDAQ:SCSS) fit the bill? Let's take a look at what its recent results tell us about its potential for future gains.
What we're looking for The graphs you're about to see tell Select Comfort Corp. (NASDAQ:SCSS)'s story, and we'll be grading the quality of that story in several ways:
Growth: Are profits, margins, and free cash flow all increasing?
Valuation: Is share price growing in line with earnings per share?
Opportunities: Is return on equity increasing while debt to equity declines?
Dividends: Are dividends consistently growing in a sustainable way?
What the numbers tell you Now, let's take a look at Select Comfort Corp. (NASDAQ:SCSS)'s key statistics:
|Passing Criteria||3-Year* Change||Grade|
|Revenue growth > 30%||71.8%||Pass|
|Improving profit margin||(78.1%)||Fail|
|Free cash flow growth > Net income growth||(19.2%) vs. 119.7%||Fail|
|Stock growth (+ 15%) < EPS growth||183.7% vs. 77.9%||Fail|
|Passing Criteria||3-Year* Change||Grade|
|Improving return on equity||(41.8%) **||Fail|
|Declining debt to equity||(100%)||Pass|
How we got here and where we're going Despite significant growth on some metrics, Select Comfort Corp. (NASDAQ:SCSS)'s had a hard time justifying its share price of late -- which may explain why shares have fallen so far in the past few months. At three of seven passing grades, Select Comfort's performance definitely leaves room for improvement. For curious investors, the question is: will that improvement happen in 2013? If not now, when?
Select Comfort's been tossing and turning uncomfortably all year. Its latest agony, which arrived last month, warned of a short-term sales weakness that resulted in big profit target cuts on Wall Street. Despite the worry, Select Comfort's forward P/E is an even 10 as of this writing, and could easily slip into single digits on one underwhelming day. Keep in mind, also, that the average $1.85 price target cited last month is still a 35% increase over 2012's result.
That makes Select Comfort, surprisingly, the best bargain by far in the shrinking mattress segment. An acquisition last year left only Tempur-Pedic International Inc. (NYSE:TPX) and Mattress Firm remaining to contend with Select Comfort, and at present both have P/E's more than twice as high as that of the maker of Sleep Number beds. This is a bit surprising, as the last time I examined Tempur-Pedic, it was the best value, and part of that rationale was that its growth rates were reportedly lower than Select Comfort Corp. (NASDAQ:SCSS)'s. How the tables have turned.
My fellow Fool Michael B. Lewis notes that the sector is particularly susceptible to any perceived demand slowdown, and that it's likely to be a bumpy ride for investors over the next few months. Everyone needs a place to lay their head, but Select Comfort and Tempur-Pedic International Inc. (NYSE:TPX) are both premium brands in a sector that hasn't yet managed to convince the world that it's really worth spending more on something in which you spend roughly a third of your life. Housing growth tends to translate into a bedding boom, but Select Comfort Corp. (NASDAQ:SCSS) has a massive market of coiled-spring mattress owners waiting to be convinced to trade up. That argument is one that shareholders hope the company can make sooner rather than later.
Putting the pieces together Today, Select Comfort has some of the qualities that make up a great stock, but no stock is truly perfect. Digging deeper can help you uncover the answers you need to make a great buy -- or to stay away from a stock that's going nowhere.
The article Is Select Comfort's Stock Destined for Greatness? originally appeared on Fool.com and is written by Alex Planes.
Fool contributor Alex Planes has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Tempur-Pedic.
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