Can Sherwin-Williams Continue to Paint the Tape?

Shares of paint maker Sherwin-Williams (SHW) are up 14% since I recommended the stock in December. The company reports first-quarter 2017 results on Thursday, April 20.

Analysts are expecting earnings of $2.07 per share on $2.71 billion in revenue, but I don't think investors will be looking too hard at the quarterly results. Instead, they will be listening for an update on the company's merger with Valspar (VAL) .

In March 2016, Sherwin-Williams and Valspar announced they entered into an agreement under which Sherwin-Williams would acquire Valspar for $113 per share in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $11.3 billion.

The combined companies would have an estimated 45% of the market for architectural paints in the U.S. Sherwin-Williams operates 4,141 stores and has a plan to reach more than 5,000 by adding 100 to 125 stores per year.

Valspar operates 57 manufacturing facilities across 20 countries on six continents. Valspar reports in two segments: paints and coatings. About 62% of paints sales are from home centers, mass merchants and independent hardware stores. In coatings, Valspar services the needs of the beverage, food and packaging industries.

The deal was expected to close at the end of April, but last month both companies announced they needed more time to divest certain assets to gain approval of from the Federal Trade Commission. The deal is now scheduled to close on June 21.

Last week, Valspar announced it had reached a deal to sell its North American Industrial Wood Coatings business to Axalta Coating Systems (AXTA) for $420 million in cash. The North American Industrial Wood Coatings business is one of the leading providers of coatings for cabinets, flooring and furniture in North America.

It's not entirely clear if the North American Wood Coatings deal is enough to satisfy the FTC. There might be a few smaller deals in the works, so investors will be listening carefully for more details on any other pending asset sales.

A combined Sherwin-Williams and Valspar would have annual revenue in excess of $15.6 billion. Approximately 76% of revenue would come from the U.S.

The global paint and coatings business totals about $120 billion a year, and North America represents just 19% of that. The two big opportunities for the merged company are Asia Pacific, at 42% of the worldwide demand, and Europe, which represents 27% of the global demand for paint and coatings.

Management believes it can save as much as $280 million by 2018 after completing the merger. About 45% of the savings would come in the form of lower raw material costs and about 42% would come from lower selling, general and administrative expenses. Over the longer term, the company believes it can save as much as $320 million. The deal would be immediately accretive to earnings.

On Jan. 26, Sherwin-Williams reported fourth-quarter EPS of $2.34, which was $0.13 better than expected. Revenue rose 6.8%, year to year, to $2.78 billion versus the $2.68 billion consensus estimate.

Assuming the merger closes, Sherwin-Williams is looking for EPS of $13.00-$13.20 and revenue to increase in the mid-single-digits. Analysts figure full-year 2017 revenue will be up 5.8% to $12.5 billion.

I think the stock can continue to move higher. Next year, for example, analysts are looking for EPS of $15.23, up 16% (from the midpoint of the company's guidance of $13.10) as the merged company works on squeezing out costs and driving earnings higher.

Currently, Sherwin-Williams is trading around 24x 2017 consensus EPS estimates of $13.71. If the company can simply maintain its current multiple on 2018 consensus EPS estimates of $15.23, the stock could trade at over $360 by this time next year.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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