A Couple of firms are out with surprisingly positive comments on Physicians Formula (FACE) following Wednesday's Analyst Day:
Deutsche Bank said their bullish stance on Physicians Formula has clearly not played out as planned, with higher costs and category slowdown masking solid share gains and well above category top-line growth. Even so, they believe risk/reward is extremely favorable for this highly volatile small cap name, with robust 2008 product pipeline and efficiency initiatives expected to drive mid-teens sales growth, overhead absorption and double-digit EPS growth. They maintain Buy rating and $18 target.
Despite Kermit's assertion, FACE is trying to prove that it is easy being green, with its Analyst Day focusing on a robust new product pipeline which includes mass market's first natural/organic color cosmetics launch. With 50-100 new skus planned for 2008 and a entirely new positioning beyond its problem/solution approach, the firm thinks potential is high for this new lineup to lift sales growth and enhance margins, even though the company is still in "show-me" mode after string of missteps.
After a slew of disappointing press releases, the reaffirmation of guidance and management's view that the quarter is progressing smoothly is a welcome sign. As we head into the fourth quarter and into 2008, the stock should perform if the company delivers on its commitments and continues its growth path, with margin expansion next year key to getting the stock closer to DB's high teens price target.
Citigroup was impressed with the way in which management delivered their message, as this oft-criticized team seems to have come into their own and are now delivering their story with more clarity, confidence, and transparency than we have seen in the past.
Specifically, with much investor confusion stemming from various industry-specific factors, such as how the gaining of additional shelf space can negatively impact sales growth and gross margins, the firm was pleased to see the company take a comprehensive approach to explaining their business model. What is more, management also, they believe, now better appreciates how volatility in their results (an inherent part of their business model) can be seen as a negative when unexpected by investors, and elaborated on this point..
While going into today's meeting, Citigroup had been eager to hear about the new innovations that the firm could expect to see from FACE, they in fact left the company's Investor Day feeling more confident in this story for a variety of reasons. While FACE's 'Project Green' cosmetics line is as innovative as they had hoped, Citi also had a chance to see how much seems to have improved internally at FACE.
As such, the firm remains optimistic about the prospects for FACE going forward, and with the shares trading at a' still-reasonable' 15.6x their CY08 EPS estimate, they reiterate a Buy rating and $13 price target on the stock.
Notable calls: The stock has been absolutely destroyed over the past 4-5 months after warning for Q2 and then guiding down for Q3 (and for the whole year). Yet, reading the comments by DB and Citi, it looks to me as things may be getting better for the company. The new "green" line may indeed win it substantial shelf space (can you say Whole Foods or Body Shop?) vs. larger competitors.
In spite of the fact the company has been around since 1937, FACE remains a relatively under the radar play for many investors.
I would not be surprised to see near-term buy interest in FACE stock following these comments. The stock attempted to rally Wednesday, but was shot down soon after. I suspect today we may see a new attempt by the bulls.