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Itron (ITRI) Stock Gains on Upbeat Preliminary Q1 Results

Itron, Inc. ITRI announced selected operating results for the first quarter, which is expected to remain unaffected by management’s ongoing accounting review. Shares of the company 2% since the announcement on May 3, as the preliminary results revealed continually strong business momentum and improved operational performance across all segments.

As announced earlier, Itron has delayed the filing of its Form 10-K for the year ended Dec 31, 2015, as it is conducting a review of revenue recognition for certain software and maintenance contracts. The company will also not be able to file its report on Form 10-Q for the first quarter in a timely manner.

In the first quarter, management reported a 28% year over year surge in advanced and smart meter and module volumes. The company witnessed the highest shipment of electric smart meters in the last 14 quarters as well as record gas smart meter shipments. Water meter and module shipments were also up 17% sequentially.

Segment Update

A favorable product mix in North America and a strong order pipeline continue to provide tailwinds to the Electricity segment. In Europe, for the company’s smart meter project with Électricité Réseau Distribution France, Itron has increased Linky meter production to the maximum capacity. Itron France has so far delivered 500,000 Linky smart meters.

The Gas segment’s performance was aided by strong volume and a favorable mix in North America as well as higher smart meter shipments to select European customers. The segment also boasts a strong sales pipeline, particularly in North America.

The Water segment fared much better than the first quarter of 2015, thanks to strong performance across North America, Europe/Middle East/Africa and Asia-Pacific as well as lower warranty costs and favorable brass pricing. The sales pipeline reflects continued deployment of smart water projects globally.

Financial Updates

In the quarter, free cash flow was $25 million, compared with an outflow of $13 million in the prior-year quarter. As of Mar 31, 2016, cash and cash equivalents were $133 million, compared with $131 million as of Dec 31, 2015, reflecting ample liquidity and financial flexibility.

During the quarter, Itron repaid $23 million in debt and reduced its total debt to $348 million as of Mar 31, 2016. The company obtained waivers through Jun 15 and Jul 15 from its creditors for the late filing of the company’s 2015 Form 10-K and first-quarter 2016 Form 10-Q, respectively.

Other Updates

Itron announced that Avista has selected Itron’s OpenWay Riva IoT solution to modernize its electric and gas network in the state of Washington and lay the foundation for smart city applications.

Itron remains focused on improving operational processes, including its manufacturing and supply chain strategy, R&D efficiency as well as the divestment of non-core businesses. Further, the company is on track to fully realize $40 million of annual savings in 2017 thanks to its restructuring plan.

Outlook

The company believes that its core operational results are on track with the prior financial guidance for fiscal 2016. During its fourth-quarter conference call, Itron had guided earnings per share in the range of $1.95 to $2.25 for 2016 on revenues of $1.85–$1.95 billion. Itron will update the guidance during its second-quarter conference call.

Currently, Itron carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

Other well-ranked stocks in the same sector include Badger Meter Inc. BMI, Cognex Corporation CGNX and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited TSM. While Badger Meter sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), both Cognex and Taiwan Semiconductor carry the same Zacks Rank as Itron.

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