Editors' pick: Originally published Feb. 10.
Michigan public officials declared on Tuesday that the beleaguered city of Flint would need more than $200 million, for starters, to remove lead pipes that have been poisoning residents.
But for America's infrastructure woes, the toxic water crisis in Flint is only the beginning. Just read the daily headlines: exploding gas lines, derailing trains, dysfunctional subways, collapsing bridges and pothole-riddled roadways. It all needs to be fixed. Below, we reveal a company that stands to make big profits in 2016 and beyond from the nation's long-deferred infrastructure bill.
None other than U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D., Vt.), victor of Tuesday's Democratic primary in New Hampshire, recently introduced a $1 trillion infrastructure bill in Congress. As Sen. Sanders aptly put it: "Our infrastructure is collapsing, and the American people know it."
The bill remains stalled in the GOP-dominated legislature, but other spending progress is being made. The vast sums required are a potential pot of gold for the right companies, and also a reminder that companies with must-have products are the best long-term investment opportunities.
In December a five-year, $305 billion U.S. highway-funding program passed Congress and was signed by President Obama. In addition, an increasing number of states and localities aren't waiting for Uncle Sam and they're ponying up their own funding.
That's good news for Martin Marietta Materials (MLM - Get Report) , a construction materials company that specializes in infrastructure work. The company this week reported strong operating results and issued optimistic guidance for 2016.
As an investor, you should put your money in companies that are tapped into unstoppable trends. Martin Marietta's ability to address the worsening infrastructure crisis fits this category.
North Carolina-based Martin Marietta produces crushed stone, gravel and sand, which are called "aggregates" and are mixed with cement to create concrete for the construction of roadways. The company operates in four segments: Mid-America Group, Southeast Group, West Group and Specialty Products. Most of the company's revenue is generated in the U.S. and Canada.
Martin Marietta also produces chemical additives for ceramics and water treatment, as well as fiber-reinforced polymer products for use in bridge decks, truck trailers, railroad cars and residential construction. The company maintains several ready-mix concrete operations in Arkansas, Colorado and Texas.
As the country's second-largest producer of construction aggregates, Martin Marietta operates roughly 300 quarries, distribution yards and factories.
This week, Martin Marietta reported fourth-quarter adjusted earnings per share of $1.15, a year-over-year increase of 22%. Revenue in the quarter of $780.8 million was up only 0.2% year over year, largely due to the adverse impact of unseasonably inclement weather on construction activity in the company's key states of Texas, North Carolina and South Carolina.
But for the full year, Martin Marietta's revenue came in at $3.3 billion, for a year-over-year increase of 22%. Adjusted EPS for the year came in at $4.50, a year-over-year increase of 20%. For full-year 2015, Martin Marietta achieved record net sales and profitability and returned nearly $630 million to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases.
For the full year, shipments to the infrastructure market grew 5% on a year-over-year basis, driven by state-level funding initiatives in Texas, Iowa, Georgia and Florida.
Also in 2015, the company's residential market for aggregates products jumped 20% compared to the previous year, reflecting the housing industry's robust recovery. The company enjoyed particularly strong demand in Florida, Colorado and North Carolina, which ranked last year among the top 10 states in housing starts.
In addition to Washington's recent boost in highway spending, Martin Marietta is benefiting from a booming construction industry that's witnessing expansion in residential housing, commercial and public projects. Compared to global peers such as Fluor, Martin Marietta is a more focused play on growing infrastructure investment in the U.S.
Management projected that prices of the company's main aggregate products will rise 6% to 8% in 2016. It also forecast revenue of $3.5 billion to $3.7 billion in 2016, compared with the average analyst estimate of $3.61 billion.
Martin Marietta's trailing 12-month price-to-earnings ratio stands at 33, a bit pricier that the industry average of 20.30 but considerably lower than major competitor Vulcan Material's (VMC - Get Report) trailing P/E of 54.
With Martin Marietta stock now trading at about $132, the median analyst consensus for a one-year price target is $175, suggesting the stock could gain 33% from recent levels.
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