UniFirst (UNF) - Get Report , which supplies and services uniforms and workwear to various industries, will report first-quarter fiscal 2016 earnings results before the opening bell Wednesday. As a result of plummeting oil prices, which have hurt the industrial sector, revenue in UniFirst's specialty garments business has been under pressure, falling by high single digits in the last two quarters of fiscal 2015. The company's stock has suffered, too.
The shares lost some 13% in 2015, including 14% declines in the past six months, underperforming both the S&P 500 (SPX) index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) . But ahead of UniFirst's earnings results Wednesday, investors who are looking for a solid 2016 bounce-back candidate that is trading at a relatively cheap price (forward P/E of 16 vs. forward P/E of 17 for the S&P 500) can do well here.
For the quarter that ended in November, the average analyst earnings-per-share estimate calls for $1.65 a share on revenue of $374.8 million, compared to the year-ago quarter when UniFirst earned $1.85 a share on revenue of $370.4 million. For the full year, ending in August, earnings are projected to be $5.76 a share, down from $6.30 a year ago, while revenue of $1.47 billion would mark a 1% increase.
Weak oil prices have forced many of UniFirst's customers to slash their budgets, making it harder for UniFirst to grow revenue. But the Wilmington, Mass.-based company has nonetheless beaten Wall Street's earnings-per-share estimates in six straight quarters. And during that span, it has beaten its revenue growth targets five times, leading to both revenue and earnings for fiscal year 2015 rising 4.4% and 3.6%, respectively.
That both fiscal 2015 revenue and earnings still increased amid the huge drop in oil prices underscored the urgency with which management quickly reset the business to operate profitably. What's more, that UniFirst, which generates roughly $227 million in operating cash flow (up 16.6%), still maintained its solid balance sheet of $276 million in cash (up 44%), with no long-term debt, lessens the risk a prolonged weakness in oil prices may present to its growth.
Based on fiscal 2017 consensus earnings-per-share estimates of $6.23 a share -- calling for 8% increase -- it's likely UniFirst has already seen the worst of its business struggles. Likewise, its earnings are projected to grow at an annual rate of 11.5% in the next five years, more than doubling the projected growth rate of the average stock in the S&P 500 index.
It is likely for this reason, among others, the stock's average 12-month price target of $127 implies some 26% gains from current levels of around $100. Following its results Wednesday, UNF shares may begin to move higher.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.