A month has gone by since the last earnings report for Vulcan Materials (VMC - Free Report) . Shares have lost about 43.4% in that time frame, underperforming the S&P 500.
Will the recent negative trend continue leading up to its next earnings release, or is Vulcan due for a breakout? Before we dive into how investors and analysts have reacted as of late, let's take a quick look at the most recent earnings report in order to get a better handle on the important catalysts.
Vulcan Materials (VMC - Free Report) Q4 Earnings Miss Estimates, Up Y/Y
Vulcan Materials Company’s shares declined 2.5%, following its fourth-quarter 2019 results, wherein earnings missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate but revenues almost met the same.
Earnings and revenues improved on a year-over-year basis, given solid shipment growth and strong pricing in the aggregates business. Also, robust growth in public construction demand and continued improvement in private demand added to the positives.
Vulcan Materials — which is one of the largest producers of construction aggregates — reported adjusted earnings of $1.08 per share, lagging the consensus mark of $1.12 by 3.6%. However, the company’s bottom line improved 9.1% from the year-ago level.
Total revenues of $1,186.2 million almost matched the consensus mark of $1,191 million and increased 9% year over year.
Segments in Detail
Revenues from the segment increased 9.9% year over year to $960.2 million owing to higher shipments and pricing. During the quarter, freight-adjusted average sales price increased 5.5% (4.8% on mix-adjusted basis) from the prior-year quarter. Freight-adjusted revenues also rose 9.6% from the prior-year quarter to $720.6 million.
Aggregate shipments (volumes) were up 4% year over year, reflecting strong shipment growth in Southeast and Southwest markets, including double-digit improvement in Florida and along the Gulf Coast.
Gross profit of $274.5 million was up 7.1% year over year. However, gross margin — as a percentage of segment sales — contracted 70 basis points (bps) to 28.6%. Profitability was negatively impacted by higher repair and maintenance costs, geographic volume mix including higher sales volumes in rail-served remote markets, as well as lower tipping fees for clean fill.
Asphalt, Concrete and Calcium
Revenues from the Asphalt Mix segment were $206.3 million, up 11% year over year. The segment recorded gross profit of $11.1 million, which grew 67.1% from a year ago. Asphalt mix selling prices increased 3% and shipments grew 10% from the prior-year quarter. The company's largest asphalt market — California — reported volume growth in the fourth quarter, after a soft first half of 2019 due in part to weather. The average unit cost for liquid asphalt was 12% lower than the prior-year quarter. Total revenues from the Concrete segment were $95.3 million, up 2.9% year over year. Moreover, gross profit totaled $6.6 million, down 43.5% year over year. Same-store shipments were up 1% year over year and average selling prices grew 2%. Project delays and higher repair and maintenance costs resulted in the year-over-year decline in gross profit. Total revenues from the Calcium segment were up 7.3% from the prior-year figure to $2.1 million. The segment reported gross profit of $0.8 million, up 69.7% from the prior-year quarter.
Selling, Administrative and General or SAG expenses were $96 million, increasing 14.3% year over year due to compensation-related expense as well as higher professional fees. As a percentage of revenues, the metric increased 30 bps year over year. Also, adjusted EBITDA was up 4.5% year over year to $298.5 million, driven by strong shipments and pricing.
As of Dec 31, 2019, cash and cash equivalents were $271.6 million, up from $40 million at the end of 2018. In 2019, Vulcan Materials returned $167 million to its shareholders through dividends and share repurchases. At the end of 2019, total debt — which amounted to $2.8 billion — was 2.2 times of its trailing 12-month adjusted EBITDA.
Adjusted earnings came in at $4.70 per share, up 16% from the 2018 level. Total revenues of $4,929.1 million grew 12.5% from the 2018 level. Adjusted EBITDA increased 12% from a year ago to $1.27 billion.
Vulcan Materials expects double-digit earnings growth in 2020. Its earnings from continuing operations for the full year are expected within $5.20-$5.80 and adjusted EBITDA is projected in the range of $1.385-$1.485 billion. It expects aggregates shipments to register 2-4% growth from a year ago. Freight-adjusted price is expected to increase 4-6% for aggregates. The company expects aggregate gross profit in Asphalt, Concrete and Calcium to increase 10-15% year over year. It expects SAG expenses of $365 million; interest expense to be $125 million; depreciation, depletion, accretion and amortization expense of $385 million; and an effective tax rate of 20%.
How Have Estimates Been Moving Since Then?
It turns out, estimates review have trended downward during the past month. The consensus estimate has shifted -10.8% due to these changes.
Currently, Vulcan has a nice Growth Score of B, a grade with the same score on the momentum front. Charting a somewhat similar path, the stock was allocated a grade of C on the value side, putting it in the middle 20% for this investment strategy.
Overall, the stock has an aggregate VGM Score of B. If you aren't focused on one strategy, this score is the one you should be interested in.
Estimates have been broadly trending downward for the stock, and the magnitude of this revision indicates a downward shift. Notably, Vulcan has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). We expect an in-line return from the stock in the next few months.