When we first examined the home standby generator market, we were struck by what seems to be a unanimity of opinion that tremendous secular growth would be driven by homeowners increasingly discovering the benefits of having an automated system to supply electric power in times of outages. It’s argued that penetration is low, and that loss of power is not only inconvenient, but uneconomic, for food spoils and families must seek alternative shelter. Yet as we looked into the matter, we saw that there was smart grid technology available for deployment that could sharply reduce truck rolls necessary to restore power after storms have hit. This could reduce both the number of outages and their average duration. The Berkeley Lab published an exhaustive grid reliability study in August 2015, which we thought would shed light on the subject, but the report failed to ever mention this possible solution. In quarterly earnings reviews, Generac management and institutional analysts covering this stock seemed to neither volunteer any information about the smart grid nor would they ask about it. Is grid technology an existential threat to Generac’s business? In this last segment of our discussion of Generac, we try to piece together this puzzling avoidance of what one would think is a crucial consideration for Generac shareholders.
Generac astutely commandeered the clear leadership position in home standby generators during the late 1990s and after the start of the millennium. In so doing, it developed an expertise in engines optimized for burning natural gas or propane, such as its 2-cylinder OVHI 1,000 cc displacement engine that can deliver 16 kW of standby power, as well as by making transfer switches and other related technologies. Moreover, it has structured its supply chain to optimize a position as an “asset light” assembler that can nevertheless exert control over its intellectual property. But home standby is a niche market, and management has not wanted its growth constrained. It has used M&A to forge ahead into the commercial & industrial markets, historically the domain of entrenched leaders Cummins Onan and Caterpillar. It has also become a leader in tower lighting, for which it does not even make engines. It has also reentered the small-engine portable generator space, and developed a line of power washers. In this segment, Stocks-in-Depth examines the competitive dynamics affecting Generac in its usual granular and entertaining style, providing cameos of several surprisingly profitable innovators against which Generac must wrestle away market share to succeed.
For at least a decade, Generac's strategy has been to leverage off of its clear leadership in the home standby generator market to establish market share in portable generators, power washers, and commercial & industrial standby electricity generation markets. How successful has it been? How profitable can these adjacencies be? What other companies have done well? What has happened to the poorer performers in the marketplace?
Generac has seen its sales and earnings decline for over two years. Four powerful storms swept across the U.S. in the 2011-2012 period, but ever since then electric power outages have been well below normal. In Part 1 of our discussion of Generac, we'll cover what businesses this company runs, and what management's strategy is. We will have to stop and resume the discussion in Part 2, but you will start to see how our granular approach of deconsolidating and estimating sales and earnings within the backwaters of Generac can yield insight into where this company has been, and how it has changed through this difficult period for standby generators and other related engine products.
Central Garden & Pet contains numerous distinct businesses within its two namesake segments. In part 3 of this podcast, we spend nearly two hours breaking down the pieces within these segments, and provide granularity so you can appreciate how various rivals compete in each niche. Along the way, we explode the myth that dog food market, in which Central doesn't have much of a presence, has unappetizing growth and profitability. "Big dog food" is also the principal actor in the treat sector, but still Central has innovated and enjoyed success in treats and inedibles. In Garden, we devote much time to describe controls and grass seed. Part 3 also devotes much of its discussion to special ingredients, which mostly pertain to the flea and tick area.
In Part 2 of the Central Garden & Pet podcast, we continue to review the operations of the company beginning with portions of the Pet segment, mainly Aquatics, Flea & Tick products, calming products, equine, and the professional and special ingredients businesses. We discuss the Garden segment, especially controls. Given some of the pieces of the Garden segment seem to have good profit margins, we explore why the other portions of this segment have thin margins, and what actions incoming CEO George Roeth might take to improve the situation.
In Part 1 of this three-part podcast, we start by presenting some background on Central Garden & Pet, and we discuss management changes over the last few years that have affected the company’s strategy. We draw comparisons in our analysis to other consumer product firms, and discuss management’s ability to achieve acceptable levels of ROI in its two segments. After this high-level discussion, we take a detailed tour of many of the businesses in its Pet segment, which depending upon the variation of earnings in the problematic Garden segment, we think generally contain about two-thirds of the earnings power of the company. GARP Research, which is the producer of Stocks-in-Depth, recently published an over 50-page long initiation report on Central Garden & Pet. In the following two episodes of Stocks in Depth, we will resume with the Aquatics portion within the Pet segment, cover the Garden segment, and then in Part 3 we will devote considerable time to imparting some of our analysis of the competitive dynamics and market sizes for the plethora of businesses in the Pet and Garden segments.
In this podcast, we examine what has caused growth in outerwear, sportswear, and footwear to accelerate since the 2008 credit crisis for key players such as Columbia, North Face, and other brands. These leading firms have harnessed the opportunity to use outlet stores and e-commerce to redefine their relationship with their customers and retailers, and in so doing have increased their penetration of these essential apparel markets. Coming out of the 2008 meltdown, we recount the grotesquely massive bets made by retailers on private label, which helped spur Columbia to develop this strategy. We evaluate the return on capital of various players, taking a dive into the metrics of retailing to help contrast various approaches, and we touch upon the emergent category of yoga attire. The industry has been changed on a deeply fundamental level, which we think has benefited the strongest brands over peripheral players, a trend that has had a profound impact upon other industries we have followed in the past, such as the travel market.
In Part 1 of our podcast of analysis of Power Integrations' stock, we laid out how we saw it fitting in to stock market trends we've seen in 2016, which have been changing from the pattern followed since the credit crisis of 2008-2009. This company has suffered from stagnant sales and compressed margins. However, our methodology is to consider long-term trends and corporate milestones, and we think Power Integrations is beginning another such cycle, even if such episodes have in the past not been extremely robust ever since the company made a splash after its IPO in the late 1990s.
We believe InnoSwitch is the company's first major technological advance since 2008-2009, when it introduced LinkSwitch2. In Part 2 of this podcast, we describe the strategic aspects of how the other major rapid charging competitor has entered the rapid charging market, and why Power Integrations may have taken the high ground in this intriguing opportunity to make external chargers possibly demanded by the roughly 1.2 billion smart phones being sold annually around the world. We compare its plight Synaptics, and encourage listeners to also review our stock research podcast of that company. Synaptics has been a supplier of biometrics and touchscreen integrated circuits to Samsung.
The last major milestone for Power Integrations was its release of LinkSwitch2 in late 2008 to early 2009. LinkSwitch, by our estimate, is the company's leading product family. However, management stopped reporting sales by product about five years ago. In this stock research podcast, GARP discusses a wide range of subjects pertaining to this niche semiconductor enterprise. We aim to demystify the engineering breakthroughs it has achieved, including its latest, InnoSwitch, which is beginning to gain acceptance for what we believe will be the leading rapid charging standard, QC 3.0.
How much organic growth is really occurring at RealPage? Is the apartment rental market going to become swamped by capacity? How profitable is RealPage really, considering that it discusses its results with institutional holders in non-GAAP terms? What does it look like using more conventional yardsticks? Is there a large market waiting for it and Yardi to penetrate? In this podcast of this lesser known stock market listing, GARP Research attempts to unpack these questions through walking listeners through our granular models of the company’s operating results.
Vocera Communications is dearly valued relative to its present level of sales and red ink has been flowing for several years. However, 2015 has been a transformational year. Sales have started to grow and the losses are attenuating. A few years back it was largely dependent upon communications "badges" largely worn by nurses in hospitals, and it was challenged by new text messaging technologies. With a fair amount of development spending and some well-conceived, financially reasonable acquisitions, we think recent quarters indicate it seems to be gaining traction on an enterprise level. How is this affecting clinical systems, and is it improving patient care and streamlining workflow?
Shares of Taser International (TASR) retreated dramatically ever since the riots in Ferguson, MO dominated the headlines in early 2015, about one year ago. Is the decline because of fundamental factors such as Motorola's decision to enter the body cam and evidence management business, or is it more from the passage of an unpleasant psychological milestone in race relations? Are international cities rethinking their need for conductive electric weapons or body cameras in the wake of the European Union's 911 moment in Paris last November?
In part 1 of our discussion of Taser International stock, we explore how there are two segments. Its conductive electronic weapons (CEWs) enjoy extraordinarily high profitability with mid-30's operating margins fully burdened, and competition barely exists. The other segment is Axon, which contains its emerging evidence.com cloud-based evidence management system, which reduces paperwork for police officers, helps manage the multi-million dollar risks of large civil settlements, and organizes cases prosecutors advance to convict criminals. Institutional managers of equities might pass over shares of Taser, because they appear expensive based upon the combined corporate earnings from both segments. We believe such an approach is deficient, because profits in CEWs are undercut by losses in Axon, where the company is accommodating large trials with cities such as New York and London that might soon purchase a subscription to evidence.com. In our opinion, Taser showcases how GARP Research has found interesting opportunities for its institutional equity research clientele through intensive fundamental research and deep understanding of how to analyse stocks through modelling financial statements and segment details.
In part 2 of this stock research podcast discussing Entellus Medical, we explore the rough an tumble world of how rivals in the medical device industry can vary from raising a hundred million dollars for companies that wind up having minimal revenues and fail, to the foibles of industry giants such as Johnson and Johnson, which can be outwitted by small, nimble competitors such as Entellus Medical. We also share with you the lurid side of small companies that raise capital from investors who think new technology can be a panacea, when in reality just a few innovators succeed. Even when a company develops an advance to the industry's state of the art, it isn't a lead-pipe cinch that it wont fall prey to the political leverage a well-connected political contributor and lobbyist might exert to quash treatments that would save money for insurers, improve outcomes for patients, and raise incomes for doctors, as incredible as that may seem to those who unquestionably support either the left or right ends of the political spectrum.
Entellus Medical came public in January 2015 under the premise that it was the leader in office-based balloon sinus dilation, which was a small but increasingly preferred niche compares to FESS operations performed in hospitals. The investment research discussed in this podcast examines whether changes in medicare reimbursement may have been a setback that favored hybrid-FESS procedures, and how steroid implants may have temporarily affected what seemed to be an inevitable shift to treating chronic sinusitis in a dentist-like procedure. We also discuss complications that arise, and the suitability of dealing with these outside of the operating room.
Institutional investors have heard the story that unified communications is under-penetrated, and that soon most businesses will want to buy Plantronics' headsets that incorporate software compatible with Microsoft's Skype for Business cloud-based platform for office workers. Why has penetration stalled at a fraction of where consultants thought it would have been already? This stock research podcast provides equity analysis of Plantronics, and discusses why the penetration rate of unified communications might leap higher at some point in the next few years. The competitive position of Plantronics and GN Store Nord / GN Netcom is explored fully. There are high barriers to entry, for there are over 3 million lines of encrypted code in headsets. These two players are duopolistic competitors, and they are both intensely focused upon returning cash to shareholders rather than destroying shareholder wealth.
Three players are preeminent in the field of precision navigation: Trimble, Hexagon, and Topcon. Is the competitive dynamic stabilizing? How are managements dealing with slower revenue growth, and does this mean that end markets are much more penetrated than before? How rapidly can adoption of building information management (BIM) take place? What are the implications for profitability going forward?