Boring Business, Exciting Results


Measure twice, cut once. That's what the old adage says. Agilent Technologies (NYS: A) thinks you should measure a lot more than that.

As it turns out, it looks like we are measuring a lot these days. In the just-reported third quarter, sales jumped 22% year over year or 19% in acquisition-adjusted, pure organic growth. GAAP earnings soared 59% to $0.92 per share.

Agilent's business now rests on a balanced set of growing legs. The difference between the slowest-growing segment (chemical analysis tools) and the fastest one (electronic measurement) covers a span of just 7%. CEO Bill Sullivan noted that Agilent is investing heavily in research and development in order to "capitalize on market opportunities, despite uncertainties in the economy."

Agilent has been very busy realigning its business around the most profitable operations at hand, selling some product lines to JDS Uniphase (NAS: JDSU) and Bruker (NAS: BRKR) over the last couple of years and replacing them with a basket of privately held electronics and life sciences businesses.

And these changes are making a difference to Agilent's top line. The company just raised its full-year revenue guidance as incoming orders jumped 30% year over year -- faster than billed revenues. The company is fighting slow orders from the American defense industry and yet manages to post tremendous growth.

At this pace, Agilent is outgrowing nearly every major competitor from Danaher (NYS: DHR) to St. Jude Medical (NYS: STJ) while maintaining margins right in line with its peers. Measurement tools hardly set hearts aflutter and pulses a-racing, but there's plenty of exciting and profitable growth to be had in this industry if you know where to look. And at the moment, Agilent's growth prospects are leaving its valuation in the dust with a PEG ratio of just 0.5. That's the cue for deep-discount value hounds to start drooling.

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At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorAnders Bylundholds no position in any of the companies discussed here. The Motley Fool owns shares of St. Jude Medical. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. You can check outAnders' holdings and a concise bio, follow him onTwitterorGoogle+, or peruseour Foolish disclosure policy.

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Originally published