Every investor can appreciate a stock that consistently beats the Street without getting ahead of its fundamentals and risking a meltdown. The best stocks offer sustainable market-beating gains, with improving financial metrics that support strong price growth. Let's take a look at what Under Armour's (NYS: UA) recent results tell us about its potential for future gains.
What the numbers tell you
The graphs you're about to see tell Under Armour's story, and we'll be grading the quality of that story in several ways.
Growth is important on both top and bottom lines, and an improving profit margin is a great sign that a company's become more efficient over time. Since profits may not always reported at a steady rate, we'll also look at how much Under Armour's free cash flow has grown in comparison to its net income.
A company that generates more earnings per share over time, regardless of the number of shares outstanding, is heading in the right direction. If Under Armour's share price has kept pace with its earnings growth, that's another good sign that its stock can move higher.
Is Under Armour managing its resources well? A company's return on equity should be improving, and its debt to equity ratio declining, if it's to earn our approval.
By the numbers
Now, let's take a look at Under Armour's key statistics:
Revenue Growth > 30%
Improving Profit Margin
Free Cash Flow Growth > Net Income Growth
33.4% vs. 180.7%
Improving Earnings per Share
Stock Growth (+ 15%) < EPS Growth
268.4% vs. 165.8%
Source: YCharts. *Period begins at end of Q3 2009.
Improving Return on Equity
Declining Debt to Equity
Source: YCharts. *Period begins at end of Q3 2009.
How we got here and where we're going
Growth stock superstar Under Armour may be getting a bit ahead of itself as it earns four of a possible seven passing grades. Two areas of concern are the company's free cash flow, which hasn't kept pace with net income growth at all, and its stock price, which has exceeded EPS gains by over 100%. Will Under Armour be able to justify its soaring stock by the next time we review its progress? Let's dig deeper.
Under Armour has been a polarizing stock for our Foolish analysts. Analyst Joe Tenebruso calls it "Tier 1," which as you might expect, is the best tier. Contributor Robert Eberhard has had his eye on the stock for a long time. Contributor Amanda Alix is keen on the company's great marketing muscle and consistent innovation.
On the other hand, contributor Tamara Rutter thinks Under Armour is a step behind yoga-pant dynamo lululemon athletica (NAS: LULU) . Fool contributor Dan Carroll thinks you should simply get rid of Under Armour altogether. Who's right? Well, everyone may have a point, but the market can't listen to everyone.
Under Armour's progress and financial metrics look a bit closer to Nike's (NYS: NKE) than to lululemon's. Its profit margins are weaker than both, but its growth rate has consistently outpaced every company in the fitness-apparel industry not named lululemon. The problem with high growth rates, however, is that they can quickly become baked into a stock's expectations, and any perceived weakness is quickly pounced on by short-sellers. That seems to have been the case with Under Armour's latest earnings report, as investors pounced on one piece of bad news as an excuse to flee. The company still had a better quarter than Nike, which is more reliant on international sales that have been slowing for some time.
Under Armour's expansion remains heavily dependent on sales from Dick's Sporting Goods (NYS: DKS) and Foot Locker (NYS: FL) , with which it has developed store-within-a-store sales channels. On the other hand, Under Armour has been making great strides selling its products directly to consumers, with a quarter of revenue in its latest quarter coming from direct sales. Under Armour has the brand strength to attract many consumers to more profitable channels, but it'll have to stay on top of fitness trends to maintain its loyalties.
Putting the pieces together
Today, Under Armour has some of the qualities that make up a great stock, but no stock is truly perfect. Digging deeper can help you uncover the answers you need to make a great buy -- or to stay away from a stock that's going nowhere.
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The article Is Under Armour Destined for Greatness? originally appeared on Fool.com.
Fool contributor Alex Planes holds no financial position in any company mentioned here. Add him on Google+ or follow him on Twitter @TMFBiggles for more news and insights.The Motley Fool owns shares of Dick's Sporting Goods and Under Armour. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Under Armour, lululemon athletica, and Nike. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a diagonal call position in Nike. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.