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Astec Industries, Inc. ASTE is poised well to benefit from strong residential real estate demand and improvement in non-residential construction. Further, increased US infrastructure spending augurs well. The company is also advancing well with its strategy — Simplify, Focus and Grow that has been designed to deliver profitable growth. Focus on acquisitions, growing part sales volume and international business launch of new products will drive growth. Improvement in order levels and cost reduction actions will also contribute to performance.
Astec currently has a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) and a VGM Score of B. Our research shows that stocks with a VGM Score of A or B, combined with a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or 2, offer the best investment opportunities for investors.
Let's delve deeper and analyze the factors that make Astec a compelling investment option at the moment.
Robust Q4 Results, Upbeat 2021 Outlook
Astec's fourth-quarter 2020 adjusted earnings per share improved 33% year over year to 56 cents and surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 42 cents. This was primarily driven by the company’s transformation initiatives in the last two years.
The company has been witnessing improvement in order levels lately as evident from year-over-year increase of 37% in total backlog to $360.5 million at the end of 2020 driven by improvement in both its segments. Domestic backlog and international backlog improved 44.3% and 15.4%, respectively.
The company will gain on strong residential construction demand and improvements in non-residential construction. Further, President Biden’s $2 trillion spending plant to rebuild US infrastructure bodes well for Astec.
Solid Growth Projections
The Zacks Consensus Estimate for Astec's 2021 earnings is currently pegged at $2.72 per share, suggesting year-over-year growth of 14.3%. The estimate for 2022 stands at $3.50, indicating an improvement of 28.7% year over year.
Positive Earnings Surprise History
Astec Industries outpaced the Zacks Consensus Estimate for earnings in each of the trailing four quarters, the average surprise being 172.7%.
The stock has gained 31% so far this year, compared with the industry’s rally of 26.8%.
Estimates Moving Upward
The Zacks Consensus Estimate for Astec’s 2021 earnings has moved up 6% over the past 30 days, reflecting analysts’ confidence in the stock. The estimate for the next year has moved north by 3%.
Valuation is Inexpensive
Astec’s forward 12-month EV/EBITDA ratio is 13.08, while the industry's average trailing 12-month EV/EBITDA is 14.74. Consequently, the stock is cheaper at this point based on this ratio.
Growth Drivers in Place
Astec is progressing as per its strategy — Simplify, Focus and Grow. Under the Simplify aspect, the company continues to reduce organizational structure complexity, and consolidate and rationalize footprint and product portfolio. The company has transitioned to a two-segment organizational structure and rationalized three sites in Hameln, Germany, Albuquerque, NM and Mequon, WI.
Per the Focus initiative, Astec sold its GEFCO business and eliminated its exposure to the energy industry. It continues to drive operational excellence across organization and optimize product portfolio. In March 2020, the company launched its OneASTEC business model, with the strategic pillars of Simplify, Focus and Grow. The model was designed to better set strategic direction, define priorities and improve overall operating performance.
Through the Grow aspect, the company will focus on innovation, global expansion, and disciplined and strategic acquisitions. It expects to use technology and digital connectivity to enhance customer experience.
Astec acquired two premier full-line concrete batch plant manufacturers — CON-E-CO and BMH in 2020 to strengthen the Infrastructure Solutions business and provide customers with access to the most robust line of concrete products in the infrastructure industry. The company also acquired certain assets of Grathwol Automation, LLC, which is engaged in the business of developing and providing advanced telematics and remote diagnostics for construction equipment and related products and services.
The company remains committed toward improvement of its part sales volume over the long term and growing its international business. Astec remains well-poised in the long term backed by the global population growth, increased urbanization and the need to repair the ageing infrastructure.
Other Stocks to Consider
Some other top-ranked stocks in the Industrial Products sector are Deere & Company DE, AGCO Corporation AGCO and Crown Holdings, Inc. CCK. All of these stocks carry a Zacks Rank #2 at present. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.
Deere has a projected earnings growth rate of 82.5% for fiscal 2021. So far this year, the company’s shares have appreciated 40%.
AGCO has an estimated earnings growth rate of 29.9% for the ongoing year. The company’s shares have surged 43% year to date.
Crown Holdings has an expected earnings growth rate of 16.2% for 2021. The stock has gone up 5% so far this year.
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