Middleby Looks More Appetizing Than Ever

By Markets Fool.com


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Investors in Middleby (NASDAQ: MIDD) understand the value of the kitchen equipment that the company makes. Whether a customer is a restaurant owner looking for commercial-grade ovens or a residential homeowner wanting to have state-of-the-art appliances, Middleby has worked hard to offer a wide range of products suited to every taste. Coming into Wednesday's second-quarter financial report, Middleby investors wanted to see more evidence that the company could sustain its impressive growth pace, and they weren't disappointed by the equipment maker's strong results. Let's take a closer look at what Middleby said and what lies ahead for the company.

Middleby satisfies shareholders

Middleby's second-quarter results left no question about the success of the company. Revenue climbed by a third to $580.5 million, which accelerated from last quarter's pace and easily exceeded the consensus forecast for sales growth of about 27%. Net income also jumped by about a third to $72.9 million, and that produced earnings of $1.28 per share. Given that most investors were expecting closer to $1.11 per share, Middleby pretty much blew away preconceived views of its results.

Taking a closer look at how Middleby did, the company's acquisition strategy helped power its growth. About 29 percentage points of its sales growth came from acquisitions, leaving organic currency-neutral top-line growth of about 5%. Currency impacts once again became less onerous, costing the company just over 1 percentage point of sales during the quarter, as the dollar's strengthening decelerated.

Middleby's three primary businesses showed relatively consistent solid performance, with growth coming from different sources. The commercial foodservice equipment segment posted an 11% rise in sales, with acquisitions contributing about half of that growth. For the food processing equipment group, sales gains of 16% came entirely from organic expansion. Once again, however, the residential kitchen equipment division relied entirely on acquisitions, with the purchase of AGA and Lynx being the sole cause of revenue increases amounting to 133%. When you take out the positive impact of those purchases, organic sales were down 12% compared to the previous year's quarter. Middleby blamed weakness in its Viking and U-Line product lines for the declines. Middleby also managed to improve its gross margin figures by more than half a percentage point, topping the 40% mark even with some downward pressure from recent acquisitions.

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CEO Selim Bassoul was quite satisfied with Middleby's results. "Domestically, we have strong demand from our restaurant chain customers," Bassoul said, "that continue to adopt our innovative equipment solutions." However, the CEO also pointed out that comparisons against a strong 2015 performance made growth harder to come by in the commercial division, and large backlogs from the food processing equipment business helped bolster overall gains for the company.

What's coming up for Middleby?

For the most part, Middleby seems to see plenty of potential in its newly-acquired businesses. As Bassoul put it, "We continue to focus on our profit improvement initiatives at the recent acquisition of AGA Rangemaster Group and its related portfolio of premium residential brands." The CEO also pointed to the purchase of ice-machine maker Follett as a way to broaden its portfolio of equipment and appeal as a more complete full-service provider for the food service industry.

The big question for Middleby is whether it will be able to sustain the huge growth rates that investors are now counting on seeing. Acquisitions that it has already made should keep Middleby growing this year, but investors aren't as confident about next year's prospects, seeing revenue gains fall to just over 10%. Nevertheless, the hope is that Middleby will be able to squeeze more profits from its sales as it gets a better handle on its customer base and eliminates some of the legacy problems that it inherited when it first purchased some of its newer product lines.

Middleby didn't release its results until the after-hours trading session was over, so investors will have to wait until Thursday to see how the stock reacts. With so many opportunities for growth, however, Middleby looks like a delicious addition to portfolios for investors looking for stocks that have dramatic potential for appreciation in the years to come.

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Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Middleby. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.