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Waste Connections' (WCN) Q4 Earnings: What's in the Offing?

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Waste Connections, Inc. (WCN - Free Report) is scheduled to report fourth-quarter 2017 results after the market closes on Feb 14. Adjusted earnings of the company beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 2 cents last quarter. Waste Connections delivered a healthy average positive surprise of 4.8% in the trailing four quarters, beating earnings estimates in each.

Let’s see what’s in store in the company’s upcoming results.

Key Factors to Consider

Since the completion of its merger with Progressive Waste Solutions Ltd at the end of second-quarter 2016, Waste Connections has emerged as an industry leader with enhanced scale and a stronger financial profile. With complementary footprint, the combined company has pro forma revenues of approximately $4.1 billion and operates an integrated network of solid waste operations across North America. In fact, post-merger, the company has reported better-than-expected revenues in each quarter, to date. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for Waste Connections’ fourth-quarter revenues is pegged at $1,125 million, slightly higher than reported revenues of $1,049 million in the prior-year quarter. The combined company has benefited from a diverse revenue base and has strategic assets uniquely positioned for growth.

Waste Connections typically targets secondary and rural markets to garner a higher local market share, which would be difficult to attain in more competitive urban markets. With prime location of disposal sites within competitive markets, Waste Connections has optimal asset positioning to generate higher profitability. Given the importance of and costs associated with the transportation of waste to treatment and disposal sites, having disposal capacity proximate to the waste stream offer a competitive advantage and serve as a barrier to entry.

However, Waste Connections’ revenues are highly seasonal due to lower volume of solid waste generated during winter and early spring owing to comparatively lesser construction and demolition activities and reduced E&P activity. Severe cold weather conditions further reduce waste collection activities, resulting in higher labor and operational costs. The seasonality is also attributable to lower drilling programs and lower volumes of E&P waste during mild winter conditions. All these seasonal factors lower predictably in revenue generation and increase operating risks.

Earnings Whispers

Our proven model does not conclusively show that Waste Connections is likely to beat earnings this quarter as it does not possess the key components. A stock needs to have both a positive Earnings ESP and a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), 2 (Buy) or 3 (Hold) for this to happen. This is not the case here as you will see below:

Zacks ESP: Earnings ESP, which represents the difference between the Most Accurate estimate and the Zacks Consensus Estimate, is -0.68%. You can uncover the best stocks to buy or sell before they’re reported with our Earnings ESP Filter.

Waste Connections, Inc. Price and EPS Surprise

Zacks Rank: Waste Connections has a Zacks Rank #3. While this increases the predictive power of ESP, we need to have a positive ESP to be confident about an earnings surprise.

Note that we caution against stocks with a Zacks Rank #4 or 5 (Sell-rated) going into the earnings announcement, especially when the company is seeing a negative estimate revisions momentum.

Stocks to Consider    

Here are some companies that you may want to consider, as our model shows that these have the right combination of elements to post an earnings beat this quarter:

Agilent Technologies, Inc. (A - Free Report) has an Earnings ESP of +1.21% and a Zacks Rank #3. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Aaron's, Inc. (AAN - Free Report) has an Earnings ESP of +3.81% and a Zacks Rank #2.

Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, Inc. (AAWW - Free Report) has an Earnings ESP of +0.48% and a Zacks Rank #2.

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