Trash, Tribulations, and Solar Eclipses

This article is part of ourRising Star Portfolio series.

A few stocks in my Rising Star portfolio have experienced some significant recent developments. I'm holding all three, currently feeling comfortable with two and experiencing some trepidation regarding the third.

Waste not, want not
Waste Management (NYS: WM) is faring just fine in the current environment. The garbage handler and recycler reported third-quarter net income increased 11.5% to $272 million, or $0.58 per share. Revenue increased 8.9% to $3.52 billion, with sales related to newly acquired Oakleaf adding $106 million of the growth.

Higher pricing and commodity prices as well as stronger recycling volumes helped boost the quarterly results. Waste Management's recycling operations form a particularly interesting component to its business equation. Average recycling commodity prices increased 29% in the quarter, and Waste Management's recycling volumes jumped 8% organically and 14% from acquisitions.

Waste Management's results beat analysts' estimates on both the top and bottom lines.

Interface's quarter doesn't inspire
Carpet manufacturer and sustainability leader Interface (NAS: IFSIA) can't boast such a solid earnings report, having missed analysts' estimates. Third-quarter net income was just flat at $12.2 million, or $0.19 per share. However, total revenue increased a decent 8.1% to $273.1 million.

The rather uninspiring earnings were the result of moderation in some overseas corporate office markets, as well as higher prices for raw materials. Neither of these factors is a shocking news flash given the current economic environment, and long-term investors should remember the stock still looks reasonably priced with a PEG ratio just over 1.

First Solar eclipse
I've saved the most dramatic twists and turns for last: First Solar (NAS: FSLR) . Not only has this stock been assailed by a negative climate throwing shadows over the solar industry, but CEO Rob Gillette has been ousted from his post, sparking quite a stock price roller-coaster ride last week.

CEO departures are often unwelcome, since they can cause all kinds of ripple effects, including operational confusion and distractions among management and the workforce. Worse, so far there's no indication of the actual grounds for Gillette's departure; the company's early earnings release simply included a terse line from Interim CEO and Chairman Mike Ahearn, "We thank Rob for his service, but the Board of Directors believes First Solar needed a leadership change to navigate through the industry turmoil and achieve our long-term goals."

Here's an even less appealing development: Gillette pocketed $30 million for just 15 months of work at First Solar and could collect a severance package set at $8.9 million. He was awarded a $5 million signing bonus when First Solar wooed him from his post at Honeywell. Bloomberg pointed out that the compensation for Gillette's tenure actually surpassed that of the chief executive of energy giant Chevron (NYS: CVX) , despite the fact that First Solar's shares have lost 60% during his tenure while Chevron's have increased 54% in that timeframe.

From a corporate governance standpoint, this stinks, and lowers First Solar in my esteem. Although the company's early release of third-quarter results were heartening given the dark pessimism eclipsing the solar industry and it's been announcing recent solar farm deals with companies like Exelon (NYS: EXC) , it's hard to feel overly sunny about First Solar given the added uncertainty right now.

Hold 'em, don't fold 'em
I plan to hold all three for this Rising Star portfolio for now. Waste Management's quarterly results were solid, and Interface's financials weren't particularly shocking giving the overall economic environment at the moment. I don't feel any glaring concerns that tempt me to ditch either one, and continue to believe in the strengths of their businesses.

I'm least comfortable with First Solar, which is why I wouldn't consider buying more right now, even though its shares look cheap. Gillette's departure adds one more uncertain element, and I'm not going to be amused if First Solar's board of directors continues to greet new chief executives with pay-for-possible-performance" compensation packages. This has raised a red flag and bears watching.

At the time thisarticle was published Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned in her personal portfolio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Interface, First Solar, and Waste Management. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Waste Management, First Solar, Exelon, and Chevron, as well as writing covered strangle positions in Exelon and Waste Management. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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