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Can Vulcan's (VMC) Acquisition Spree Boost Growth Prospects?

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Acquisitions have been integral to Vulcan Materials’ (VMC - Free Report) growth strategy. The company strengthened its portfolio through acquisitions and divestitures that are expected to facilitate the company in driving profitability.

The company’s shares have gained 12.7% in the past three months, comparing favorably with the industry’s 3.8% increase. Again, earnings estimates for 2018 have moved 2.8% north over the past 60 days. This upside reflects analysts’ optimism surrounding the company’s future earnings potential. The company’s strong aggregate reserve position and bolt-on acquisitions should also drive the stock’s performance in the upcoming quarters.



 

Expansion via Acquisitions

Since becoming a public company in 1956, Vulcan Materials followed a systematic inorganic strategy for expansion and has wrapped up various bolt-on acquisitions that had contributed significantly to its growth. Vulcan Materials closed acquisitions totaling $226 million in 2017.

During the first quarter of 2018, the company closed three acquisitions, including aggregates and asphalt operations, complementing its existing positions in Alabama and Texas.   

Importantly, the company made an important integration of Aggregates USA, LLC for $900 million into its portfolio in early 2018. With this addition, Vulcan will serve high-growth markets across the Southeastern United States comprising states of Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina and Virginia.

The company will largely benefit from the state highway funding programs in these areas and also from consistent private-sector growth in the region. Adjusted EBITDA, including the impact of Aggregates USA operations, is envisioned in the range of $1.15-$1.25 billion. Aggregates shipments from Aggregates USA operations are expected to be roughly 7 million tons.

These buyouts boost Vulcan's ability to serve customers well, and draw in operational and commercial synergies.

Meanwhile, the company divested its Georgia ready-mix concrete operations in March.

Efforts to Boost Aggregate Reserve Position

Vulcan Materials invested $64.4 million in internal growth projects in the first quarter to secure new aggregates reserves, develop new production sites, enhance distribution capabilities, and support the targeted growth of asphalt and concrete operations.

The company also has plans to spend $350 million through 2018 for internal growth, including the development of strategic aggregates sites in California and Texas.

Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Will Act as Catalyst

Private demand, both residential and non-residential, continues to recover across the Vulcan-served markets, and highway demand is again on the surge after 2017 had been disappointing.

Importantly, Trump unveiled the long-awaited $1.5 trillion plan to fix America’s infrastructure over the next 10 years. The plan is primarily centered around using the $200 billion in federal funds to spur massive infrastructure investments in roads, highways, ports and airports.

The comprehensive bill will also address issues related to drinking and waste-water system, energy and rural infrastructure, as well as veterans’ hospitals, to name a few. This will further propel demand for products sold by companies like Vulcan Materials.

Overall, this Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) company expects adjusted earnings to grow 30-50% for 2018. Also, it will remain focused on building aggregates’ unit margins and executing internal-growth projects.

Headwinds

Vulcan Materials is susceptible to bad weather conditions as most of its products are used outdoors in the public or private construction industry. The company’s production and distribution facilities are also located outdoors. Inclement weather affects the company’s ability to produce and distribute products. It also has a negative impact on demand, as construction work can be hampered by weather. The first and fourth quarters are most affected by winter.

Stocks to Consider

Some better-ranked stocks in the Construction sector are M.D.C. Holdings, Inc. (MDC - Free Report) , sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), while Beazer Homes USA, Inc. (BZH - Free Report) and Meritage Homes Corp. (MTH - Free Report) , both carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Current-year earnings for M.D.C. Holdings, Beazer Homes and Meritage Homes are expected to grow 33.3%, 6.5% and 42.5%, respectively.

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