Large U.S. companies are struggling to grow their revenues, but a handful are bucking the trend.
More than half of S&P 500 companies have announced results for the second-quarter reporting season. Nearly seven out of 10 have topped earnings estimates, but only four out of 10 have outperformed on revenues, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
That should worry stock investors. Companies can increase their earnings even while customer demand is slipping by laying off workers and cutting other costs. But such "growth" won't necessarily lead to a higher stock price, and opportunities for cost-cutting eventually run out.
On the other hand, companies that increase their revenues (especially on their own, without acquisitions) are likely benefiting from expansion or rising customer demand. And studies have shown that companies that beat Wall Street's revenue and earnings forecasts go on to produce better stock returns than those that beat on earnings alone.
Below are listed three S&P 500 members that have announced quarterly results since July 1. Each reported double-digit revenue growth and topped Wall Street's revenue estimates by at least 5%.
- Quarterly revenue increase: 35%
- Revenue surprise: 12%
Google's (GOOG) second-quarter results, reported July 19, benefitted from its acquisition of Motorola Mobility Holdings. But even without the revenues added by that deal, Google's revenues would have increased 21%. That compares with a 3% pace for the S&P 500 so far this reporting season. The price Google charges customers when one of its visitors clicks on an ad link fell 16% during the quarter, but the number of ad clicks surged 42% thanks to the company tweaking how and when such links are displayed.
- Quarterly revenue increase: 98%
- Revenue surprise: 12%
Shares of hard drive maker Western Digital (WDC) jumped more than 20% Thursday after the company reported a near-doubling of fourth-quarter revenues. It didn't reported how much of the increase came from its purchase of Hitachi's storage division, completed in March, but last year, Western Digital's revenues exceeded those of the Hitachi division by nearly a 2-to-1 ratio. That suggests Western Digital would have reported strong growth even without the acquisition. During the quarter, it generated $1.1 billion in cash from operations and spent nearly all of it to pay down debt and purchase its own stock.
- Quarterly revenue increase: 22%
- Revenue surprise: 5%
Shares of Lennar (LEN), the third-largest U.S. homebuilder by revenues, are up more than 50% this year. On Friday, the company reported a 22% increase in revenues from a year earlier along with a 61% jump in its order backlog and a slight increase in average selling prices. Lennar's chief executive said in a statement that the housing market seems to have bottomed and that a "steady recovery" is afoot. That view is at odds with a Commerce Department last week that showed a dip in new home sales for June, but some analysts blame the decline on a limited supply of new homes.