United Rentals, Inc. (URI - Free Report) reported third-quarter 2019 results, wherein earnings and revenues beat the respective Zacks Consensus Estimate. However, the company narrowed its full-year guidance. United Rentals remains concerned about the lingering economic uncertainty that could impact construction and industrial activity. United Rentals stock was down about 4% immediately after the earnings announcement in the extended hours of trading on Oct 16.
Nonetheless, the company has been witnessing improved demand in construction end-markets served, partly offset by slower industrial growth. It remains upbeat about 2020 and expects higher free cash flow generation, considering all these market dynamics.
Inside the Headlines
Adjusted earnings of $5.96 per share beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $5.53 by 7.8% and increased 25.7% from the prior-year figure of $4.74.
Total revenues of $2.49 billion surpassed the consensus mark of $2.45 billion by 1.6%. Moreover, revenues rose 17.6% year over year.
Rental revenues (including revenues from owned equipment rental, re-rent and ancillary) were also up 15.4% (increasing 4.2% on a pro-forma basis) from the year-ago quarter to a record $2.15 billion, buoyed by solid impact of BakerCorp and BlueLine acquisitions. The pro-forma improvement reflects growth in construction end markets served by the company.
Fleet productivity was down 1.3% year over year in the quarter, mainly due to the impact of the above-mentioned buyouts. On a pro-forma basis, fleet productivity was up 1.7% from the prior-year quarter, attributable to improvement in rental rates and fleet mix, partially offset by a decline in time utilization owing to integration of the recent acquisitions. Notably, Fleet productivity aggregates the impact of changes in rates, utilization and mix on owned equipment rental revenues.
General Rentals: Segment equipment rentals’ revenues increased 13.7% year over year to $1.64 billion. However, rental gross margin contracted 270 basis points (bps) year over year to 40.9% due to higher operating costs and the impact of acquisitions.
Trench, Power and Pump/Specialty: Segmental rentals revenues increased 21.1% year over year to $505 million. Organically, sales grew 10.3% from the prior-year quarter. Rentals gross margin declined 360 bps on a year-over-year basis to 48.7% owing to acquisitions, and higher operating costs due to repair and maintenance works.
The company’s total equipment rentals gross margin dropped 280 bps year over year to 42.7%.
Nevertheless, adjusted EBITDA increased 14% from the prior-year quarter to $1.21 billion. However, adjusted EBITDA margin contracted 150 bps to 48.5% in the quarter, owing to the impact of the completed acquisitions. On a pro-forma basis, EBITDA margin declined 40 bps, reflecting higher operating costs.
United Rentals’ cash and cash equivalents totaled $60 million as of Sep 30 compared with $43 million at 2018-end.
In the quarter, the company generated $992 million as net cash from operating activities, reflecting an increase of 109.3% from the year-ago period. Free cash flow was $302 million in the quarter.
In the first nine months of 2019, net cash from operating activities came in at $2.58 billion (up 21.6%) and free cash flow was $1.1 billion (up 101.9%).
Share Repurchase Program
In the first three quarters of 2019, United Rentals repurchased $630 million worth of stocks and reduced its share count by 3.1% year over year. As of Sep 30, 2019, the company repurchased $1.05 billion of stocks under the $1.25-billion share repurchase program, which is expected to be completed by 2019-end.
2019 Guidance Updated
Total revenues are expected in the range of $9.25-$9.35 billion (versus $9.15-$9.45 billion expected earlier), indicating an increase from $8.05 billion in 2018.
Adjusted EBITDA is projected between $4.35 billion and $4.4 billion (versus $4.35-$4.5 billion projected earlier), suggesting growth from $3.86 billion in 2018.
Net rental capital expenditures after gross purchases are projected in the range of $1.25-$1.35 billion, implying a decline from $1.442 billion in 2018. The company had earlier expected the same within $1.3-$1.4 billion.
Net cash provided by operating activities is expected in the range of $2.9-$3.05 billion ($2.85-$3.1 billion was projected earlier), pointing to an improvement from 2.85 billion reported in 2018.
Free cash flow (excluding the impact of merger and restructuring-related payments) is now expected in the range of $1.45-$1.55 billion compared with $1.4-$1.55 billion of prior expectation. The current guidance for the metric suggests an increase from $1.33 billion reported in 2018.
Zacks Rank & Key Picks
United Rentals currently carries a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.
Some better-ranked stocks in the Zacks Construction sector are Quanex Building Products Corporation (NX - Free Report) , Aegion Corporation (AEGN - Free Report) and Construction Partners, Inc. (ROAD - Free Report) , each sporting a Zacks Rank #1.
Quanex’s 2019 earnings are expected to increase 41.5%.
Aegion’s three-five year expected EPS growth rate is projected at 10%.
Construction Partners surpassed the consensus mark in three of the trailing four quarters, with the average positive surprise being 9.2%.
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