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Brunswick Corp (NYSE:BC) is the leading global manufacturer of boats. The company makes everything from inflatables, deck and pontoon boats to sport fishing convertibles and motoryachts. In addition, the company manufactures sterndrives, outboard and inboard engines, trolling motors, GPS navigation and marine electronics and even marina management systems. In other recreational product areas, the company manufactures fitness equipment, bowling products, billiard tables, and foosball and Air Hockey tables. Finally, it operates Brunswick bowling centers as well as retail billiard stores.

The company is explicit in its strategy. Growth, operating margin improvement, and creation of shareholder value are company mantras.

Growth will be achieved through innovation, deployment of leading edge technologies, brand building, internationalization and improving and leveraging the core competencies of its supply chain.

Operating margin improvement will be achieved by technological investment and effective cost management.

Finally, the objective of shareholder value enhancement will be achieved by getting returns on investment that exceed cost of capital. Personally, I just love seeing this stated explicitly!

The boating segment of the company represents some $2.8 billion in sales. Brands include Albemarle, Hatteras, Sea Ray, Bayliner, Maxum, and Meridian as well as Boston Whaler, Baja, Crestliner, Lowe, Princecraft and many more. In short, if you are a boat dealer, to satisfy your customers' needs, you almost certainly need to carry some aspect of the Brunswick line. About 2300 dealers carry at least one of the boat brands.

The company's marine engine division has the largest dollar sales volume of recreational marine engines in the world and had sales of $2.7 billion last year. Brands include Mercury, MerCruiser, Mercury Marine, and Mercury Jet Drive. Engines and propulsion systems are sold through over 7000 dealers and distributors.

Brunswick also has a commercial fitness line which includes the Life Fitness and Hammer Strength brands, again representing the largest dollar sales volume of commercial fitness equipment in the world. Sales here are about $550 million.

Bowling and billiards is a $465 million segment. As well as manufacturing and distributing products, this segment operates 113 bowling centers in the US, Canada, and Europe. The company has manufactured billiards tables since 1845!

Finally, the company has a 49% interest in a joint venture finance company, Brunswick Acceptance, that is co-owned with GE Commercial Finance. This segment provides floor-plan financing to boat and engine dealers.

International sales represent about 35% of total sales with boat segment sales constituting 29% of international sales and marine engines 52%.

This is a cyclical growth business that Brunswick continues to dominate. The valuation of the business is extremely cheap in my opinion at EV/EBIT of 8.3 times. EV/EBITDA is only 6.1 times. These valuations are based on trailing twelve month numbers.

In a recent Wall Street Transcript interview [subscription required], Elizabeth Osur, an analyst with Citigroup indicated :

"While 2006 could be a tough year for boating sales, the stock is attractively priced, likely limiting the downside and providing some potential for sizable upside. If they can execute a couple of acquisitions in Europe, the company may see some accretion."

The margins in Europe tend to be somewhat better than North American margins and the company has been highly successful in building its brands through acquisition.

Cash flow from operations have always exceeded net income over the last five years and have totalled about $2 billion over that time. Contrast that with reported net income of $950 million. Capex over that time was also substantial representing almost $800 million. Free cash flow for the period totalled about $1.2 billion. Only about $60 million in stock has been repurchased in that time (all of that in 2005) and dividends totalled about $250 million.

Return on invested capital tend toward 5% in the cyclical low years and upwards of about 12% in the cyclical peak years though in 2000, ROIC hit 15.6%. The company generates about $2.19 in sales for every dollar of capital employed. Receivables and inventory tunover numbers have steadily improved over the last five years.

Long term debt to capital has tended down from what generally has been about 33% debt to its current 27%. Cash per share is over $5.00.

The stock is down about 25% from its peak valuation.

"The average boat buyer is 49 years old, very near the 'sweet spot' of the baby boomer population" according to Mark Keller of A G Edwards in an interview with TWST [subscription required]. The trade-up boater is becoming a more important part of the boating population and Brunswick is gearing its product line to satisfy that demand.

Though fuel prices and the economic outlook have made investors near-term skittish about ongoing demand, in my view the long term competitive advantages that Brunswick possesses should make this an attractive investment from these levels.

Disclaimer: Neither I, my family, or clients have a current position in Brunswick.

BC 1-yr chart:

Source: Brunswick: Bargain Basement Boating? (BC)