Vista Outdoor Only Highlights Continued Gun Stock Woes, Value Investor Dilemma

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During the most recent years, stocks tied to guns and ammunition rallied sharply after serious incidents involving guns. One of the driving forces was gun control fear of a ban or a serious curb on which weapons could be bought. The same applied to ammunition, and shortages from 2010 to 2015 were not unusual. When you see shares of Vista Outdoor Inc. (NYSE: VSTO) down over 20% after earnings, it means that there has been a serious disruption in the gun-stocks.

Before gun lovers and investors in gun stocks think they should panic, they better consider that they have probably missed the boat. At least most of the boats. Even if these stocks remain weak, they are now down far enough from highs that some bargain hunters are wondering whether they should start treating these value stocks. Before considering these as value stocks just because of low expected P/E ratios, it is important to consult the 11 Serious Risks for Value Investors before delving into them.

The biggest consideration here for the gun stocks is that the election fear cycle for gun control is currently over. Donald Trump as President has been vocally in favor for gun rights, including having received an endorsement from the National Rifle Association (NRA). It was widely expected that Hillary Clinton was going to be for much more strict gun control, perhaps even much more so than what was seen under President Obama. If the gun control fears are gone, the impetus to buy up endless of guns and ammunition has gone away for the time being.

The share price of Vista Outdoor was $38.94 on election day, and it barely traded up to $40.00 before selling off handily. Even though Vista Outdoor dipped under $20 on Thursday, it was at $25.74 the prior day and it was at $37.79 as recently as ‎Jan‎uary 11‎, 2017 when its shares dropped so hard the following day (to $29.58).

Before getting into the news, it’s important to understand that Wall Street analysts are not generally that good at following the gun and ammunition makers. If an analyst lives in or anywhere around New York City, chances are high that they don’t even personally own guns and ammunition. It might seem almost funny that law firms have been making class action suit noise around Vista Outdoor after the drop.

The reality is that it wasn’t Vista’s actual sales and revenues. Those were up, but it was an expectation for weak sales ahead that really hammered Vista and put pressure on the gun stocks.

Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc. (NYSE: RGR) was last seen trading down 1.7% at $49.70 and the 52-week range is $47.15 to $78.09.

American Outdoor Brands Corporation (NASDAQ: SWHC), which is the new name for the parent of Smith & Wesson, was down 1.15% at $21.09 on Thursday, versus a 52-week range of $20.41 to $31.19. American Outdoor also owns gun brands such as M&P and Thompson/Center Arms, as well as other outdoor sporting brands.

Olin Corporation (NYSE: OLN) is far more diversified away from guns than its gun-stock peers, but its Winchester segment offers ammunition and loading components. The company dates back to 1892. Olin shares were last seen down 0.5% at $29.08, versus a 52-week range of $12.51 to $30.87.

As far as Vista Outdoor’s actual guidance, the company is projecting 2017 to have revenue of $2.50 billion to $2.54 billion and adjusted earnings in a range of $1.95 to $2.10 per share.

Trading at close to 10 times an earnings forecast probably sounds cheap on the surface. Even at $20.00 or so, trusting earnings guidance is hard to do when the core gun and ammunition business has lost all of its momentum now that there are less and less fears of gun control under a President Donald Trump. Again, value stocks often act as value traps.

Vista Outdoor Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark DeYoung said:

Vista Outdoor is committed to delivering long-term growth through the execution of our strategy and a focus on new product development, operational efficiencies and execution excellence. The challenging retail environment we experienced in our first and second quarters worsened in our third quarter following a slow hunting season and the national elections. This resulted in the need for increased promotional activity to support sales and maintain market share. We have also seen increased inventory in our retail and wholesale channels. As a result of these market factors, we announced a non-cash intangible impairment charge. Although we are disappointed in the impairment within the Hunting and Shooting Accessories reporting unit, we continue to drive improvements in our execution and innovation in our product lines. The company launched more than 150 new products during the winter show season. We have created market leading positions in numerous outdoor product categories, and we are committed to delivering long-term value from our portfolio of top brands.

Vista Outdoor Chief Financial Officer Stephen Nolan said:

The acceleration of current market challenges has led the company to update FY17 financial guidance. For the full year, we expect gross margins to be roughly in line with the third quarter results. While we will release formal guidance for FY18 during our May earnings call, we do expect the revenue and margin pressures we are experiencing in the back half of FY17 to continue into next year. Despite the pressures this year and next, the company is committed to a value-creating capital deployment strategy, long-term sales growth and margin improvement, and delivering long-term value to our shareholders.

Vista Outdoor shares were last seen trading down 20.9% at $20.36, and shares hit a 52-week low of $19.72 earlier the same day. The volume of 7.7 million shares at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time was more than 6 times normal trading volume.