Lakeland Industries (LAKE) is getting pounded today, as shares of the hazmat suit and protective clothing specialist plunged as much as 25% in morning trading.
LAKE stock had been getting a ton of press and interest due to Ebola’s spread in recent weeks, and has been one of the stock market’s hottest names as a result. The micro-cap company was even highlighted by InvestorPlace on Oct. 1 as a potential outperformer in the wake of the Ebola scare.
Lakeland Industries lived up to the billing, roaring to more than 300% gains from Oct. 1 through yesterday’s close.
However, realizing that those short-term gains might have been a bit on the speculative side, investors are trimming their gains today, and I don’t blame them. While Lakeland Industries touted its “proprietary processes for specialized seam sealing,” which is a “far superior technology for protecting against viral hazards than non-sealed products,” LAKE stock is a short-term, speculative Ebola play. Nothing more.
At a market capitalization of $120 million, you’d be worthy of another type of specialized protective clothing — a straitjacket — if you think LAKE stock is a buy at current valuations.
A Lake of Fire
Sales have been on the decline for the past four consecutive fiscal years. Even though it seems like the recent outbreak is enough to cause that trend to reverse in FY2015, Lakeland’s truly remarkable inability to squeeze any sort of consistent profit out of its roughly $90 to $100 million in annual sales is downright depressing.
To see why I think that LAKE stock is still overvalued, even after today’s fall, consider this:
In each of the last five fiscal years, Lakeland Industries logged between $91 million and $101 million in revenue. For the first three years of that period, the company was profitable — but just barely. LAKE made about $1 million a year in FY10, FY 11 and FY12, so about 1% margins. Then, between FY13 and FY14, Lakeland lost a combined $25.9 million.
But let’s do the math. Lakeland’s market capitalization is about $130 million right now. Even if increased sales were enough to triple this year from FY14, annual sales would be $274 million (a figure Lakeland has never been close to reaching, but never mind that right now). In that already dreamy scenario, let’s assume net margins miraculously hit their highest level over the past five years, 1.13%. How would LAKE stock look?
Profits would be about $3.1 million, which for 5.62 million shares outstanding yields FY15 earnings of 55 cents per share. LAKE trades in the $24 per share range, so more than 40 times forward earnings, even after extremely generous assumptions.
The Ebola hysteria has people on edge, but if you’re really expecting a global pestilence, don’t throw your money away on an irrationally priced stock. After all, what happens if Ebola gets under control?
As far as LAKE stock goes, I feel confident it will need some medical attention.
As of this writing John Divine held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter at @divinebizkid.