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S&P 500 companies with the fastest sales growth

Two homebuilders make the list, a good sign for the housing market

D.R. Horton, Inc.
Homebuilder D.R. Horton said its order backlog expanded by 12%.

With almost 70% of S&P 500 member companies having reported quarterly earnings, it’s time for an update on which posted the fastest sales growth.

Why look at sales? Because companies’ earnings figures are sometimes skewed by one-time items and, therefore, can be meaningless.

During earnings season, the business media tend to focus on whether a company “beats” analysts’ estimates for earnings per share and revenue, but that can often miss the point. What if the analysts expected a company to have a poor quarter? What if the company tends to lower its own guidance heading into earnings season, so that analysts follow suit and set up a “beat”?

For those reasons, many investors focus on sales growth. And just to sharpen our edge, we’re focusing on growth of sales per share. That takes into account any dilution in the share count caused by the issuance of stock for any reason, including acquisitions, and also any reduction in the count from net share repurchases.

Twitter Inc. TWTR, +0.24% which isn’t part of the S&P 500, is a good example of why it’s important to look at sales per share. The company reported second-quarter revenue of $436 million, for a whopping 74% increase from a year earlier. But dilution of the share count caused by a very high level of stock-based compensation to employees led to a much smaller 55% increase in sales per share. That’s still an excellent number, but its much lower than the 74% sales increase. Alas, the social-media company remained unprofitable, with a net loss of 25 cents a share.

So we’ll be looking at both sales per share and earnings per share.

Here are the 10 S&P 500 companies with the quickest quarterly sales per share:

CompanyTickerIndustrySales per share - most recent quarterSales per share - year earlierGrowth of sales per share
D.R. Horton Inc.DHI,-1.72%Homebuilding$7.97$5.8437%
Skyworks Solutions Inc.SWKS,-4.14%Semiconductors$4.15$3.0436%
Apple Inc.AAPL,-1.30%Telecomm. Equipment/ Computers$8.45$6.2036%
Gilead Sciences Inc.GILD,-0.61%Biotechnology$5.35$3.9436%
Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.WBA,-0.25%Drugstore Chains$26.12$20.0430%
Lennar Corp. Class ALEN,-2.32% Homebuilding$10.34$7.9830%
Goldman Sachs Group Inc.GS,+0.23%Investment Banks/ Brokers$22.87$17.9128%
Facebook Inc. Class AFB,-0.08%Internet Software/ Services$1.42$1.1127%
Under Armour Inc. Class AUA,+1.11%Apparel/ Footwear$3.56$2.8127%
Laboratory Corp. of America HoldingsLH,-0.27%Services to the Health Industry$22.14$17.5726%
Source: FactSet
There have been plenty of indications of a strong recovery for the U.S. housing market. The inclusion of two national homebuilders, D.R. Horton Inc. DHI, -1.72% and Lennar Corp. LEN, -2.32% on the above list is another good sign that the recovery will not only be sustained, but that the economy will add more construction jobs.D.R. Horton said net sales orders in its fiscal third quarter, by the number of homes, increased by 22% to 10,398, and its sales order backlog grew by 12% to 12,761 homes.

Lennar said that, for its fiscal second quarter ended May 31, new orders rose 18% to 7,271 homes and its backlog also climbed 18%, to 8,073 homes.

Here are changes to earnings per share for the same set of companies:

CompanyTickerEPS - most recent quarterEPS - year earlierGrowth of EPS
D.R. Horton Inc.DHI,-1.72%$0.60$0.3288%
Skyworks Solutions Inc.SWKS,-4.14%$1.06$0.5883%
Apple Inc.AAPL,-1.30%$1.85$1.2845%
Gilead Sciences Inc.GILD,-0.61%$2.92$2.2033%
Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.WBA,-0.25%$1.18$0.7557%
Lennar Corp. Class ALEN,-2.32% $0.79$0.6130%
Goldman Sachs Group Inc.GS,+0.23%$1.98$4.10-52%
Facebook Inc. Class AFB,-0.08%$0.25$0.30-17%
Under Armour Inc. Class AUA,+1.11%$0.07$0.08-13%
Laboratory Corp. of America HoldingsLH,-0.27%$1.64$1.640%
Source: FactSet
Goldman Sachs Inc. GS, +0.23% suffered a 52% decline in second-quarter earnings per share because the company’s net provisions for litigation and regulatory proceedings increased to $1.45 billion from $284 million a year earlier.Facebook Inc. FB, -0.08% had what only could be described as a successful quarter, considering that the company’s average daily active users grew by 17% from a year earlier to 968 million, while average daily mobile users increased by 29% to 844 million and sales per share rose 27%. But earnings per share declined 17% from a year earlier. The company said its expenses could rise as much as 65% this year, as it makes investments in new data centers and long-term projects.

While investors showed some disappointment, sending Facebook’s shares down 2% on Thursday, Wall Street couldn’t be happier, with 29 analysts raising their price target for the stock.

Here are consensus price targets and implied upside potential for the same group:

CompanyTickerShare of analysts with ‘buy’ ratingsClosing price - July 31Consensus 12-month price targetImplied upside
D.R. Horton Inc.DHI,-1.72%45%$29.69$29.53-1%
Skyworks Solutions Inc.SWKS,-4.14%74%$95.67$117.7123%
Apple Inc.AAPL,-1.30%73%$121.30$146.1921%
Gilead Sciences Inc.GILD,-0.61%84%$117.86$127.768%
Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.WBA,-0.25%50%$96.63$96.860%
Lennar Corp. Class ALEN,-2.32% 33%$53.04$53.000%
Goldman Sachs Group Inc.GS,+0.23%18%$205.07$213.524%
Facebook Inc. Class AFB,-0.08%88%$94.01$109.2016%
Under Armour Inc. Class AUA,+1.11%59%$99.33$99.040%
Laboratory Corp. of America HoldingsLH,-0.27%70%$127.29$142.3512%
Source: FactSet

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