Daimler (OTCPK:DDAIF), the automaker renowned for its luxury Mercedes cars and Freightliner trucks, traded lower for an 8th consecutive day yesterday. Since July 25th, Daimler has fallen 20% to $61 per share far in excess of the broader market. Why have investors punished Daimler? Because Daimler is a global consumer stock and investors are panicking that economies on both sides of the pond are heading back into recession. After all, if you're worried about your job you're unlikely to buy a new car. But, despite how bad things may seem, Daimler investors are getting a good opportunity to buy shares on sale ahead of the next global round of stimulus.
Daimler has made significant headway since the recession. Last quarter, revenue rose 24% from last year while earnings rose a more impressive 52%. Sales of its Mercedes passenger cars, heavy-duty trucks and efficient Sprinter vans are increasing. And analysts, who cut profit expectations in the wake of Japan's tsunami, are beginning to move estimates back up again. In the past month, the street consensus for 2012 has increased to $5.64 from $5.57.
While the market is worried over future sales, the luxury market remains a bright spot. On the company's second quarter conference call, Daimler reported its passenger car factories were working extra shifts to boost production. Daimler's inventory to sales dropped to 50 days in July, down four days from last year. Its light vehicle market share rose to 2% from 1.8% last year. And the daily sales rate rose 17.5% year-over-year last month. This brought year-to-date sales to 141,717 units, up 9.8% form 2010.
But Daimler isn't just a car company. At its truck segment, which includes market share leader Freightliner, revenue was up 14% as unit sales rose 9%. Truck orders have exceeded sales so far this year with North American orders rising 66% and sales increasing 47% last quarter. In the strong NAFTA region, Daimler held a 31.6% market share for Class 6-8 trucks going into 2011.
In June, industry wide Class 8 truck sales of 14,647 were the highest since 2007, up 64.6% from last year. Year-to-date, heavy-duty truck sales through June were 46.3% higher than 2010. And while truck segment sales were strong, they would have been $300-400 million higher without the negative impact on Daimler's Fuso brand following Japan's tsunami. These lost sales by the way, are likely to be recaptured in future quarters as Japan rebuilds.
A lot of investor angst is tied to the risk of stalling economies dragging down truck orders. Despite this risk there are a lot of reasons truck sales will remain strong. Inventory levels remain tame - in contrast to 2008 - and retail sales, despite global macro worries, were solid in June and July. As we move into the important Q4, the backdrop remains solid for inventory growth which boosts freight miles and pressures truckers to add capacity. Particularly since so little was spent during the recession.
But, there are other reasons operators are buying new trucks too. Regulatory mandated upgrades for one, and attractive tax incentives for another. Both of these tailwinds should continue through this year. At the same time growth in South America, alongside emerging markets opportunity in China, offer upside too.
Of course the risk remains that global central banks will be unwilling, or unable, to keep economies growing. But yesterday's bond buys by the European Central Bank, and an increased likelihood of QE3, are likely to keep the auto market afloat. Meanwhile, it's very unlikely global regulatory conditions will become less restrictive, which supports truck sales.
So, for investors willing to look beyond headlines and buy companies with double digit revenue and earnings growth, Daimler is presenting a unique opportunity to buy at a fair price for upside.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, but may initiate a long position in OTCPK:DDAIF over the next 72 hours.