Titan Machinery Inc. (TITN): One Attractive Small Cap Worth a Look

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The doldrums seem to be over for agriculture machinery and infrastructure equipment as indicated by the May 15 surge of Alamo Group, Inc. (NYSE:ALG) to a new one-year high of $44.13. Experiencing steady demand for its agricultural and right-of-way maintenance equipment in the 2013 first quarter, Alamo posted record results for the period. Its net sales rose year over year by 2% to $158.4 million and net income was similarly up 2% to $6.9 million, or $0.57 per diluted share, from $6.8 million, or $0.56 per diluted share.

A Titan justifies its name

Titan Machinery Inc. (NASDAQ:TITN)

Revenue was also up at Titan Machinery Inc. (NASDAQ:TITN), which is reputedly the largest retail dealer worldwide for the agriculture equipment manufactured by CNH Global NV (ADR) (NYSE:CNH). Titan is also said to be the largest dealer of CNH construction equipment in North America and a major retail dealer of CNH agriculture and construction equipment in the U.S.

Expanding such dealerships to other capital equipment, too, is a possibility. CNH is merging with Fiat Industrial, which will, in effect, create the world’s third-largest capital goods manufacturer valued at around $13 billion. With this merger, Titan Machinery Inc. (NASDAQ:TITN) stands to have a pipeline to the trucks, commercial vehicles, buses, and special vehicles that Fiat Industrial brings into the merger.

Lingering issues chop profits

For its fiscal 2014 first quarter ended this April, all four of Titan Machinery Inc. (NASDAQ:TITN)’s business segments — equipment, parts, service, and rental/others — posted revenue gains that resulted in a 4.7% increase in sales to $441.7 million from a year earlier.

Titan Machinery Inc. (NASDAQ:TITN)’s sales for the first quarter, however, were about $50 million short of the company’s expectation as it bore the brunt of some of the issues hounding the industry. These headwinds include abnormally delayed spring weather, cautionary sentiment of some agriculture customers, and continuing challenges in the construction sector.

How farms show the way

The company had a $73.9 million gross profit in the first quarter, up from $70.4 million a year earlier. Hobbled by a $6.5-million pre-tax loss in its construction segment, Titan Machinery Inc. (NASDAQ:TITN) incurred a pre-tax loss of $1 million in FY 2014 first quarter. Its agriculture segment generated pre-tax income of $8 million.

Moving forward, it is the agricultural machinery sector which can provide the immediate tailwinds not only for Titan, but also for Alamo and CNH. Increased farm capital expenditures can be expected from rising U.S. farm incomes which, as per the Dept. of Agriculture reading, will reach a record of $128.2 billion in 2013, the highest in 40 years. As encouraging, the USDA projects that the country’s agriculture exports will hit a new record of $139.5 billion for FY 2013. Federal analysts expect that farm production increases will more than offset any hike in costs and declines in price.

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