Streetwise: Eaton has a first-place track record

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Vince Lombardi's famous "Number One" soliloquy epitomizes the way you should look at your investment portfolio: "There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game and that's first place. ... There is a second place bowl game, but it is a game for losers played by losers."

These words are pertinent to what your investment strategy should be: a selection of only the best investment candidates with judicious attention being paid to profitability and intrinsic value.

A good example of a company that has rewarded investor patience with a trailing 12-month, 38 percent increase in share price is the Eaton Corp. (ETN).

When I wrote about the company a year ago, my earnings target for 2012 was $4.35 per share, with a $4.75 estimate for fiscal 2013 and a 12-month targeted share price of $55 for a capital gain of 13.4 percent. There was also an indicated dividend of 3.2 percent.

So how did the company do? Earnings for the year came in at 3.94 per share, somewhat lighter than my estimate. At the same time the share price recently closed at $68.00, a 40 percent capital gain over the share price a year ago of $48.52.

Looking at the company's most recent earnings release, Eaton chalked up record sales and operating earnings during its second quarter, driven by the acquisition of Cooper Industries. Sales in the second quarter were $5.6 billion, 38 percent above the same period in 2012.

Second-quarter operating earnings, excluding charges of $39 million to integrate recent acquisitions, were $519 million. This represented an increase of 32 percent over 2012.

Operating earnings per share, which exclude charges of 5 cents per share to integrate recent acquisitions, were $1.09 for the second quarter of 2013, a decrease of 5 percent from the second quarter of 2012. However, the number does reflect the shares issued as part of the acquisition of Cooper Industries and the purchase price accounting charges resulting from the transaction.

Since 2000, Eaton has been shaped by more than 50 acquisitions and 10 joint ventures. This strategy has produced impressive results, with acquisitions consistently delivering above their cost of capital, and has made us a better-balanced company in terms of geography, end markets, and the business cycle.

From 2011 to 2015, company guidance calls for sales growth of 12 to 14 percent, 20 percent earnings growth and 15 percent return on invested capital. Eaton also anticipates generating 9 percent free cash flow as a percent of sales by 2015.

The intrinsic value of the shares, using a discounted earnings model with an earnings growth rate of 15 percent applied to earnings of $1.4 billion and a discount rate of 12 percent, yields an intrinsic value of $83 per share. The more conservative free cash flow to the firm model produces an intrinsic value of $98 per share. The shares recently closed at $68.63.

My earnings target for 2013 is $4.30 per share, with a $4.75 estimate for fiscal 2014 and a 12-month share price target of $76 for a capital gain of 12 percent. There is also an indicated dividend of 2.60 percent.

bizopinion

Lauren Rudd is a financial writer and columnist. You can write to him at LVERudd@aol.com.


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