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American Railcar Industries

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American Railcar Industries Inc. (ARII - Free Report) is expected to derive huge benefits from the booming U.S. freight railroad industry going forward. This leading manufacturer of covered hopper and tank railcars will report third-quarter results next week, and has delivered positive earnings surprises in four out of the last five quarters. Growing demand for railcars, strong order backlogs and improved pricing make this Zacks #2 Rank (Buy) stock a lucrative investment opportunity for growth-seeking investors.

Overall a Strong Second Quarter

On July 25, American Railcar reported second quarter earnings per share of 63 cents, surpassing the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 16.67% and the year-ago earnings by a whopping 2,000%. Total revenue of a little over $154.2 million increased 37.80% year over year, but lagged the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 14.36%.

American Railcar improved margins across the board in the second quarter. Quarterly gross margin was 21.67%, an improvement of 82.87% over the prior-year quarter. Operating margin was 16.83%, up nearly 130%, and net margin was 8.66%, up a massive 1,598%. Adjusted EBITDA was over $34.44 million compared with a mere $10.88 million in the prior-year quarter.

This performance is being driven by strong demand for railcars, an improved pricing environment, a favorable sales mix and positive economies of scale. During the second quarter, the company shipped 2,200 railcars and received orders for 2,810, resulting in an order backlog of 6,800 railcars as of June 30, 2012, compared with 6,190 as of March 31, 2012.

American Railcar is scheduled to report its third quarter earnings on October 24, 2012. The Zacks Consensus Estimate is 71 cents.

Attractive Earnings Estimate Revisions

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2012 moved up 17.04% to $2.61 in the past 90 days. There has also been a nearly 2% improvement in the past week. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2013 increased 20.62% to $3.10 in the past 3 months with an advance of 2.6% in 7 days.

The current Zacks Consensus Estimates indicate year-over-year gains of 1,202.50% for fiscal 2012 and 18.91% for fiscal 2013.

Valuation Looks Compelling

The valuation for American Railcar looks reasonable. The current forward P/E of 11.85x implies a premium of 25.53% over the peer group average of 9.44x. However, with respect to the Price/Sales multiple, the stock is currently trading at 1.00x, an attractive discount of 30.56% from the peer group average of 1.44x.

Solid Chart

The stock price has surged almost 21% since the announcement of the second-quarter 2012 results. The Consensus Estimate line indicates a steep upward movement through fiscal 2014. The chart clearly shows that the stock price is expected to move higher than the increasing estimate trend.

American Railcar Industries Inc. was founded in 1988, and is a leading North American manufacturer of covered hopper and tank railcars. American Railcar also leases railcars to third parties. Additionally, it offers railcar repair services, engineering and field services and fleet management services. Its current market capital is approximately $10.91 billion.

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