Reviewing Last Week's Key Earnings Reports Of Interest To Value Investors

by: Vince Martin

Earnings season is in full swing. Last week, several companies of interest to value investors reported quarterly results. Below, I've highlighted some of the key reports that should interest long-term, fundamental minded investors:

AVX Corporation (AVX): AVX missed badly in reporting fiscal third quarter earnings on Wednesday, with per-share earnings of 22 cents on $341 million in sales well below expectations of 27 cents per share in profit on $368 million in revenue. CEO John Gilbertson blamed the company's struggles on its customers' "inventory concerns", and noted that the company hoped that such worries would dissipate, aiding sales going forward.

AVX stock finished down 3.4% for the week after the miss, but still looks attractive. Net cash is $5.64 per share, giving a trailing P/E of 5.23 on an enterprise basis. The stock's dividend yield has improved to 2.27% after a raise in late 2011, the third since late 2009.

Still, analysts are expecting lower earnings for 2012 and 2013, as the price of raw materials for the company's electronic components continues to rise. Net sales remain at 2008 levels, meaning the company must manage expenses well simply to maintain its current earnings power. Given the company's difficulty in creating top-line growth, there is definite "value trap" potential here. Investors might want to wait for either a lower entry point -- or a stronger earnings report next quarter -- to move into the stock.

Bassett Furniture (NASDAQ:BSET): How would you like to own a stock that trades at just 1.7x times trailing earnings and has 58% of its market capitalization in net cash? On a purely fundamental basis, BSET looks like a steal.

Of course, there is a catch: the strong numbers come from Bassett's May sale of its International Home Furnishing Center in High Point, North Carolina, which provided a large cash inflow and juiced its earnings numbers. Excluding the asset gain from the sale, the company earned 26 cents per share in 2011, while free cash flow was actually negative for the year.

Still, at Friday's close of $8.08, BSET trades at a substantial discount to its tangible book value of $13.32 per share. In conjunction with fourth quarter earnings, the company raised its dividend to 20 cents per share (paid quarterly), providing a yield of 2.48%. (BSET also paid out a special dividend of 50 cents per share earlier this month.)

Bassett continues to struggle with higher raw material costs and a stagnant housing market, but is an interesting turnaround play for investors with a long-term horizon. The strong cash balance provides safety of income -- and potential for dividend hikes -- allowing patient investors the ability to receive solid payouts while waiting for the company's turnaround efforts to bear fruit. Profitability has been unspectacular at best, but the cash balance and discount to tangible assets provide a strong downside cushion for the stock. BSET is up against mid-term resistance around $8.15 per share, and might provide a strong bull run should it finally break through. A failure to bust through that level might provide a lower -- and more attractive -- entry point in the near future.

PetMed Express (NASDAQ:PETS): PETS gapped up some 11% after the company beat estimates on Monday; the stock stalled out in the following trading sessions, but still finished up 7.2% for the week.

To be sure, there was some bullish news in the company's quarterly report; new customers jumped 35% year-over-year, lowering acquisition costs. Reorder sales rose; so did online sales, as 77% of sales went through the company's website.

Despite those strong numbers, sales were relatively flat (up 11% for the quarter, but just 1% for the first nine months) and earnings were down year-over-year, as margins compressed. Competition, notably from Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN)'s newly launched, forced prices, and profit margins, down. The company's $2.65/share in cash, net of liabilities, and 4.14% dividend yield look solid. But the increasing pricing pressure in the pet supply business -- particularly in higher-margin items such as pet toys -- would seem to make any bottom-line growth difficult as best. The fact that PETS' earnings fell year-over-year despite a share repurchase and an upside surprise show the difficulties in bottom-line growth for the stock. The stock still trades at 12 times earnings when backing out the cash, which seems a high premium for a mid-cap stock swimming with sharks like Wal-Mart and Amazon. Given that many low-growth stocks are trading at single-digit P/E's in the today's market, the earnings multiple given PETS seems awfully high. As such, the slow drift down for the stock following the earnings beat seems like it could continue.

Logitech International (NASDAQ:LOGI): A difficult year for Logitech continued, as disappointing fiscal third quarter results on Wednesday night led the stock down to a multi-year low of $7.10 per share. The stock rebounded on Friday -- perhaps due to bargain-hunting -- to close at $7.60, still down some 60% over the past twelve months.

There is little question that the stock price has directly reflected the company's struggles. Logitech took a bath in promoting its Revue product for Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) TV, which CEO Guerrino De Luca admitted "cost us dearly." De Luca didn't mince words on the most recent conference call, either. As he told analysts, "the most significant inhibitor through higher sales continues to (be) product gaps across all of our retail product categories, particularly in the high-end, where we do not (have) enough compelling offering to drive up sell."

Still, Logitech's strong balance sheet -- $1.85 per share in net cash, nearly a quarter of market capitalization -- and strong brand name make it an interesting turnaround play. Free cash flow continues to be extremely strong (well over 10% of enterprise value in FY11 and for the first three quarters of FY12) and the company has substantial market share in mice, keyboards, and other computer peripherals. Weakness in the Euro and full-year guidance that has been revised downward four times have both damaged the stock -- and deservedly so. But Logitech still generates substantial cash, offers a solid portfolio, and has growth opportunity through peripheral products for the iPad from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and the coming growth of "ultrabooks". The company is upfront in admitting its mistakes, and attempting to correct them. If it is successful, it could be a bargain at current levels.

Westell Technologies (NASDAQ:WSTL): Wednesday's earnings report was Westell's first since the company sold its Conference Plus subsidiary to Arkadin S.A.S in December. The company now has some $144 million in cash and investments net of long-term liabilities, a figure just under its market capitalization of $151.5 million at Friday's close of $2.25 per share.

Even with the Conference Plus subsidiary now classified as a discontinued operation, Westell has still been profitable for the first three quarters of its fiscal year, earning 33 cents per share for the first nine months. Given its enterprise value of about 9 cents per share, and a tangible book value of $2.47 per share, those earnings should support a sharply higher valuation. Free cash flow is slightly negative in the fiscal year, due to working capital adjustments which should turn in the company's favor going forward.

WSTL has an additional $17 million, or 12% of market cap, left under a share repurchase authorization, and should continue to be profitable going forward. Given the company's enterprise value of roughly $8 million, any cash generation should propel the stock higher. The micro-cap stock has flown under the radar, but could very well be trading below its cash balance by the time full-year earnings are released in late April or early May. Investors would be wise to jump into the stock before that happens, and the market catches up.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.