Miller Industries (MLR)


Key Statistics

Enterprise Value = $326.36 million

Operating Income = $47.34 million

EV/Operating Income = 6.89x

Price/Revenue = .42x

Earnings Yield = 11%

Debt/Equity = 14%

The Company

Miller Industries manufacturers towing and recovery equipment. They maintain multiple brands operating in three segments: (1) Wreckers – These are used to tow cars and trucks from car accidents. They make a variety of wreckers, including one-off tow trucks and more heavy-duty equipment. (2) Car carriers – These are flatbed vehicles with hydraulic tilts (an example is pictured in the stock photo). (3) Transport trailers – These are the vehicles you typically see on the highway stacked up with cars usually transporting new cars to an auto dealership.

Miller has a nice little niche with well-known brands in the industry, such as their Century line. The company as it exists today, is a result of a significant amount of consolidation over the years, as they’ve acquired multiple brands under the Miller umbrella.

Miller grows with the economy. As the economy improves, the miles which are driven in the US and internationally also grows. As driving mileage grows, so do car accidents. Miller’s success with wreckers, for instance, is tied to increasing numbers of car accidents that come naturally through more driving and more activity. In 2007, for example, there were 6,024,000 car accidents in the United States. This then declined with the recession to 5,338,000 in 2011. By 2016, the number of car accidents increased to 7,277,000.


My Take

Obviously, this a cyclical industry. Miles driven is extremely cyclical. Miller also has international operations that can be affected by Trump’s trade wars. The stock is down significantly since Trump started escalating the trade war and is down 22% from its 52-week high, which was only reached back in May. This has been hammered by the usual subjects: trade war and recession jitters.

If we do have a recession, one advantage that Miller has is that most of its products are manufactured upon order. In other words, expenses can quickly be reduced if the economy dries up. This leads to the remarkable consistency in Miller’s margins. Their net margins, for instance, are typically around 4-6% regardless of the direction of revenue. In 2009, during the depths of the recession, Miller was still able to eke out a profit of $.51 per share, a year in which most firms produced losses. The stock price did collapse in the last recession, but it also traded at a much higher valuation at the peak of the last cycle. In 2007, it traded at 5x book value (it currently trades at 1.3x book).

While the market is speculating that a recession and trade war will adversely affect Miller, the company itself continues to execute. In the most recent quarter, for instance, income was up 29% over the same quarter a year ago.

Miller has a high degree of financial quality. Debt/equity is low, at 14%. The F-Score is 6, which is pretty solid. The Altman Z-Score of 4.16  implies a very low probability of bankruptcy and a permanent loss of capital.

If Miller simply continues to do what they’re doing and the market speculation about trade wars and recession subside, the multiple ought to increase significantly. Right now, from an EV/EBIT perspective, the company trades at 6.8x. The 5-year average is 8.6x, which would be a 26% increase from current levels. The P/E of 8.74 compares to an industry average of 20.94 and a 5-year average for Miller of 14.7. Miller currently trades at 42% of sales, which compares to an industry average of 129%. Quite recently, Miller traded at 55% of sales.

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