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Astec to Benefit from Continuous Investment; Risks Remain

We have issued an updated research report on Astec Industries, Inc. ASTE on Apr 14, 2016. The company is poised to benefit from continuous investment in capacity expansion, introduction of new products and acquisitions. However, persistent low oil prices, global mining slowdown, a strong U.S. dollar and decline in international backlog remain concerns for Astec.

Last month, Astec received an order for the final $122.5 million of a pellet plant order for Highland Pellets along with a related deposit. The company also received the rest of the contracted payment on the first $30 million order. Astec remains optimistic about the opportunity from pellet plants. The Hazlehurst wood pellet plant, line one and line two are running at full capacity, and had met the production target when still in the startup phase. Line three is nearly installed and near the testing phase. The company experienced a slight delay in line three as it remained focused on line two startup. The order for all three lines totaled $60 million.

Further, acquisitions remain a key piece of Astec’s growth strategy along with organic growth and targeted sales growth efforts, both in the U.S. and international markets. The GEFCO and STECO acquisitions have helped expand the customer base for Astec’s existing oil and gas drill rig product. In addition, the Telestack acquisition added large port and mining material handling systems, and boosted Astec’s product portfolio.

However, benefits of new product offerings and lean manufacturing initiatives continue to be offset by low oil prices, global mining slowdown, and a strong U.S. dollar. Sales in the Aggregate and Mining Group and the Energy Group continue to be affected by the slowdown in international mining operations due to a worldwide surplus of raw materials, and a severe reduction in oil production and exploration brought on by the collapse of oil price.

On the energy side, Astec remains challenged in drilling and pumping equipment. The company is not immune to the current oil prices with regard to the oil drilling and pumper business. As a result of the low price of oil and overcapacity, Astec closed its operations at the GEFCO Loudon facility. The product lines and related inventory at Loudon were relocated and consolidated to the GEFCO Enid facility.

Further, adverse weather conditions, increasing pricing pressure and competition may pose headwinds in the future.

Astec currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Stocks that Warrant a Look

Some better-ranked stocks in the same sector are AptarGroup, Inc. ATR, Avery Dennison Corporation AVY and Ball Corporation BLL. All three stocks carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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