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Will Elevated Costs Depress WestRock's (WRK) Q4 Earnings?

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WestRock Company (WRK - Free Report) is set to report fourth-quarter fiscal 2018 results on Nov 5, before the opening bell.

In the last reported quarter, the company delivered year-over-year improvement in both its top and bottom lines. Earnings and revenues also beat the respective Zacks Consensus Estimate. Notably, WestRock’s earnings outpaced estimates in three out of the trailing four quarters, the average positive beat being 6.81%.

Let’s see how things are shaping up prior to this announcement.

WestRock Company Price and EPS Surprise

 

WestRock Company Price and EPS Surprise | WestRock Company Quote

Factors at Play

WestRock’s fiscal fourth-quarter results will reflect the impact of disrupted operations and elevated costs due to Hurricane Florence. Incremental costs in shifting inventory, products and supplies to safeguard from the storm, and increased operational and supply chain costs are likely to impair WestRock’s fiscal fourth-quarter results.

Further, higher transportation costs will impact WestRock’s results in the to-be-reported quarter. Adjusted EPS will also be affected by a higher expected tax rate and increased depreciation and amortization expenses.

Nevertheless, the company anticipates adjusted EBITDA in the to-be-reported quarter will rise to $83 million from $68 million in the third quarter fiscal 2018 driven by lower maintenance downtime, along with sales price hikes, seasonally higher volumes, favorable mix and continued productivity gains.

WestRock is likely to witness sales growth in its major segments — Consumer Packaging and Corrugated Packaging. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for revenues for the Consumer Packaging segment is at $1,937 million for the fiscal fourth quarter, indicating a 4% increase year-over-year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for revenues for the Corrugated Packaging segment is currently pegged at $2,370 million, reflecting a 6% rise year over year. The Land & Development segment is expected to report revenues of $36 million in the quarter under review, up 90% year over year.

The Corrugated Packaging segment’s operating profit will likely surge 60% to $366 million. The Consumer Packaging segment’s operating profit is estimated to rise 22% year over year to $152 million. The Land & Development segment is projected to post operating profit of $3.8 million, against a loss of $5.6 million reported in the prior-year quarter.

Moreover, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for total revenues is pegged at $4.3 billion in the fiscal fourth quarter, projecting year-over-year growth of 5%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for earnings is pegged at $1.24, indicating year-over-year jump of 42.5%.

Notably, WestRock’s fiscal 2018 performance will be backed by favorable demand, price and mix trends across its paper and packaging businesses. The company expects fiscal 2018 revenues of around $16.3 billion and adjusted segment EBITDA to come in above $2.9 billion in the fiscal.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for net sales and EPS is pinned at $16.3 billion and $4.04 for fiscal 2018, respectively.

Earnings Whispers

Our proven model does not show that WestRock is likely to beat earnings estimates this quarter. This is because 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. That is not the case here as you will see below.

Earnings ESP: The Earnings ESP, which represents the difference between the Most Accurate Estimate of $1.23 and the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.24, is -0.41%. You can uncover the best stocks to buy or sell before they’re reported with our Earnings ESP Filter.

Zacks Rank: WestRock currently carries a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell), which makes surprise prediction inconclusive.

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

Share Price Performance

WestRock has underperformed the industry with respect to price performance over the past year. The stock has dipped 30%, while the industry has recorded loss of 11% during the same time frame.



Stocks Worth a Look

Here are a few stocks worth considering as these have the right combination of elements to post an earnings beat this quarter.

Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM - Free Report) has an Earnings ESP of +3.85% and flaunts a Zacks Rank #1. The company’s shares have been up 16% in the past year. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

The AES Corporation (AES - Free Report) has an Earnings ESP of +1.43% and carries a Zacks Rank #2. Its shares have gained 38% in the past year.

Axon Enterprise, Inc (AAXN - Free Report) has an Earnings ESP of +33.33% and a Zacks Rank #3. The stock has surged 168% in a year’s time.

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