Crown Holdings: Profiting From Your Summer BBQ

| About: Crown Holdings (CCK)
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Anytime you pop a top or pull a six-pack from the fridge this summer you may be helping Crown Holdings (NYSE:CCK), a global beverage and food can manufacturer.

Last year, Crown Holdings sold 48 billion beverage cans worldwide, up 9% from 2009. In Q1, beverage can volumes were 6% higher year-over-year as bottlers continued their expansion into Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

Crown's sales are set to grow further as new capacity comes online in Brazil and China - two fast growing markets. In South Asia, the beverage market is forecast growing 15% annually and industry experts expect China will soon be the world's largest grocery market. To meet this demand, Crown is investing in new plants. From the end of Q1, 2011 through year-end, Crown plans to add 3.8 billion cans of capacity. Next year, the company is adding another 4.5 billion cans of production.

But Crown doesn't benefit solely from rising beverage can sales. It also sells food cans, which offer advantages in far from just-in-time developing markets and disaster prone regions.

Crown is also reasonably priced, trading at 12.3x rising 2012 earnings per share forecasts. They've beaten analyst expectations in three of the past four quarters. And, analysts are paying attention; increasing their 2012 earnings prediction to $3.35 per share next year, up from $3.19 90 days ago.

Crown's success is boosting cash flow, helping its balance sheet and funding shareholder friendly buybacks. Last year, the company generated $1.1 billion in free cash flow and last quarter, Crown finished with $2.62 per share in cash, despite buying back 5% of its outstanding shares for $255 million. The company has also been able to cut its net debt, which has fallen to $2.58 billion at yearend from $2.7 billion in 2008.

The increased volumes also help the company's margins. Q1 gross profit rose 17% and margins have improved to 11% last year from 10.2% and 9.7% in 2010 and 2009.

The company is geographically diversified too, generating 34%, 39% and 27% of sales from North America, Western Europe and the rest of the world in 2010, respectively. The metal price inflation risk is mitigated by contract pass-throughs.

Investors will be rewarded by emerging markets growth, debt reduction, share buybacks and capacity growth this year. In the meantime, they'll also get a natural hedge against their summer BBQ shopping trips.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, but may initiate a long position in CCK over the next 72 hours.