I’m adding the ADRs for Japan’s Facuc (FANUY:US) to my long-term 50 Stocks portfolio today, July 13. If you’re looking for a stock to take advantage of the long-term growth in the more conventional end of the robotics sector, I think Fanuc is your best choice. (I wrote about why you want to invest in robotics on my JubakAM.com subscription site on Tuesday, July 11, in my Sector Monday post on the robotics sector “What? We’re all worried about a drop in manufacturing jobs but every economy is adding more robots?”) The company has the kind of dominant market share for robotic machine tools (numerical control equipment) that produces a big get bigger effect. In addition Fanuc looks like it has learned some lessons about “investor-friendliness” after its run in with Daniel Loeb’s hedge fund Third Point after the fund took a stake in Fanuc back in February 2015. Loeb’s point was that, like many Japanese companies with exceedingly healthy profit margins, Fanuc carries a huge amount of cash on its balance sheet–in this case 1 trillion yen with zero long-term debt. Historically the dividend payout ratio is just 30%, which gives the company plenty of room to increase dividends or for share buybacks. Goldman Sachs analyst Yuichiro Isayama believes consensus earnings forecasts in 2016 reflected worries that volumes in Fanuc’s robomachine business would fall sharply. Fanuc is a key supplier of high-precision machines needed to make metal casings for electronic applications. With increasing adoption of metal casings–led by Apple ( AAPL ), Samsung and Chinese smartphone makers–the market for robomachines should stay tight until 2017 or 2018, Goldman projects. On the other hand, Fanuc did cut its guidance in July 2015 citing a drop off in global sales of smartphones. Those worries pushed Fanuc’s New York traded ADRs (FANUY:US) down 1.54% in 2016. The ADRs have rebounded in 2017 with a 16.22% gain year to date. At this price, I wouldn’t call Fanuc a drop dead buy right now (so you might think of dollar-cost averaging into a position.) Besides the uncertainties in the smart phone sector, there’s the possibility that we’re seeing the top of this cycle for auto makers. It’s also hard to read the currency trends here. The latest stimulus plan from the Japanese government did weaken the Japanese yen and it’s likely–but not certain–that the yen will remain weak. Any “fright” in the market will cause flight to the yen and will push that currency higher. On the other hand, Fanuc spends more on R&D than any of its competitors. Over the past 10 years, research and development expense has been 4.3% of sales, triple that of Kuka and double that of Yaskawa. This spending has produced a technology lead that is reflected in the company’s high operating margin of 37% on average over the past 10 years. Fanuc’s return on invested capital is more than triple its weighted average cost of capital, Morningstar calculates. The ADRs pay a yield of 1.92%.
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