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Portfolio Recovery Associates

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Shares of Portfolio Recovery Associates Inc. (PRAA - Free Report) hit its 52-week high on August 3, 2012 after reporting strong second quarter results, which included a 14.0% positive earnings surprise. This marks the eleventh straight earnings beat for this financial and business service company. With strong estimate revisions, this Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stock has now reached the momentum radar.

Sturdy Second Quarter

On August 1, Portfolio Recovery Associates reported second-quarter operating earnings of $1.87 per share, surpassing the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 14.0% and the year ago earnings by 26.4%. The outperformance was fuelled by strong top-line growth due to continuous improvement in cash collections.

Portfolio Recovery’s total revenue escalated 29% year over year to $147.9 million, exceeding the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 4.9%. The boost in revenue was mainly driven by cash receipts that grew 30% year over year and cash collections that jumped 32%.

Operating income surged 20% year over year to $54.6 million, despite a 32% growth in operating expenses. Nevertheless, the company netted an annualized return on equity (ROE) of 20.3%, surpassing its long-term target of 20.0%.

For the first time since its inception, the company successfully negotiated more than 2.0 million U.S. customer payments in a single quarter to pay down their debt. Portfolio Recovery also has about $77 million worth of stock available for repurchases under the ongoing $100 million share buyback program. All these factors inject revitalized confidence in the future operating performance of the stock.

Earnings Estimate Revisions Raise Optimism

Following a strong second quarter, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2012 increased 7.2% to $7.14 as all five estimates were revised upward over the last 30 days. This represents a year over year increase of 22.8%.

For 2013, the Zacks Consensus Estimate increased 4.4% to $8.76 over the last 30 days, supported by upward revisions from all five estimates again. This implies a 22.7% growth over 2012. The strong double-digit growth projection further validates the market’s belief in Portfolio Recovery’s fundamental strength.

Valuation Appears Secure

Portfolio Recovery currently trades at a forward P/E of 14.0x, a 10% discount to the peer group average of 15.6x. However, on a price-to-book basis, shares currently trade at 2.7x, a 13% premium to the peer group average of 2.4x. Based on the company’s strong growth prospective, the premium looks reasonable and well supported by its long-term estimated EPS growth rate of 15.0%.

The stock also looks attractive with regard to its trailing 12-month ROE of 18.1%, which is above the peer group average of 13.9%.

Charts Echo an Upward Trend

Portfolio Recovery hit a 52-week high of $101.64 on August 3, rising about 40% and reflecting the increased growth momentum for the rest of 2012.

Shares have been consistently trading far above its 200-day moving average since mid-June 2012, while it has fared well with respect to the 50-day moving average since the end of June 2012.

The stock has also outperformed the year-to-date NASDAQ index, with an astounding year-to-date return of 48.4% compared to an NASDAQ tally of 18.07%. Volume is fairly strong, averaging 129.6K daily.

Headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia and incorporated in 1996, Portfolio Recovery purchases, manages and collects defaulted consumer receivables from credit originators such as banks, credit unions, auto finance companies, retail merchants and other service providers. The company employs more than 3,000 professionals to serve customers in the U.S. and the U.K. With a market capitalization of about $1.69 billion, it competes with American Reprographics Co. (ARC) and Hudson Global Inc. (HSON) among others.

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