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ATS Automation is my Top Pick, this portfolio manager says

Believe it or not, there’s still more room to grow for ATS Automation (ATS Automation Stock Quote, Charts, News, Analysts, Financials TSX:ATA), according to Jennifer Radman of Caldwell Investment Management. The stock is currently a double for 2021 but Radman has just named it one of her best ideas for the year ahead.

“It’s a very well run company since the management change and it provides manufacturing automation solutions, and they do focus on regulated end market, so think life sciences, food, nuclear,” said Radman, head of investments at Caldwell, who in a BNN Bloomberg segment on Monday called ATS Automation a top pick for the next 12 months.

Cambridge, Ontario-headquartered ATS Automation has 28 manufacturing facilities and over 50 offices globally and employs over 5,000 people. The stock was a slow-moving name for almost a decade before it started taking off about a year ago as economies felt the pinch of COVID-19 and businesses worldwide looked to up their game in terms of automated systems. 

As a sign of that progress for the company, ATS reported its fiscal fourth quarter 2021 this past May, showing flat revenue on a year-over-year basis, but fast-forward a half-year with the company’s fiscal Q2 2022 delivered in early November and the numbers told a different story. Revenue was up 56 per cent year-over-year and earnings doubled. 

The change came as a result of higher demand for its products and services but also from a determined effort on the company’s part to expand via M&A. Part of the company’s 

ongoing “Build, Grow and Expand” strategy, ATS earlier this year acquired a number of businesses. ATS has acquired global food and beverage equipment supplier CFT, fluid dispensing and lab automation equipment company BioDot, engineering consulting company BLSG and Italian specialized pharmaceutical packaging equipment maker DF S.r.l.

The acquisitions have boosted the company’s output and order backlog, which grew by 35.5 per cent year-over-year to $1.295 billion over its recent Q2 2022.

Speaking on ATS’ second quarter earnings, CEO Andrew Hider wrote in a press release, “The second quarter featured strong operational results including organic revenue growth, acquisition contributions from CFT and BioDot, margin expansion in line with our plan, solid Order Bookings and record Order Backlog.”

“With our Order Backlog providing good revenue visibility, a healthy balance sheet in place to support growth, and our talented and committed workforce pursuing continuous improvement through our ABM, ATS is well positioned to continue creating value,” Hider said.

For the quarter, ATS’ revenue was $522.1 million compared to $335.5 million a year earlier and adjusted EBITDA was $83.3 million compared to $49.6 million a year earlier. The company’s Q2 EPS was $0.41 per share compared to $0.13 per share for Q2 2020.

Breaking down the quarterly revenue, ATS had organic topline growth of $79.9 million, up 23.8 per cent year-over-year, with the company saying organic revenue growth came mostly from the life sciences market and projects related to COVID-19 along with increased business in medical devices and pharma projects. Construction revenue grew by a full 58.1 per cent due to both acquired companies and organic growth, while ATS’ services revenue grew by 13.0 per cent, also due to acquisitions.

Looking ahead, ATS management said conversion timing for some of its projects may be delayed due to the pandemic but it still sees the life sciences funnel staying robust, while the company has set a goal of increased adjusted earnings from operations margin from 13.2 per cent over the first half of fiscal 2022 to 15 per cent. 

“These initiatives include growing the Company’s after-sales service business; improving global supply chain management; increasing the use of standardized platforms and technologies; growing revenues while leveraging the Company’s cost structure; and the ongoing pursuit of continuous improvement in all business activities through the ABM. In the short-term, the global COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted global supply chains, leading to longer lead-times and cost increases on certain raw materials and components used by the Company,” ATS wrote in the Q2 press release.

So far in 2021, ATS’ share price is up 116 per cent while since the start of November 2020 the stock is up a huge 193 per cent.

Radman says ATS has a lot of options when it comes to growth.

“They just provided some more detail on the Bruce Power contract that they have in supplying a first-of-its-kind solution. It’s another company seeing very strong bookings,” Radman said. “The global supply chain disruptions that we keep talking about are a positive tailwind for them, higher labor costs are a positive tailwind and then another secular driver for them is electric vehicles where they have pretty good expertise in the battery assembly pack.”

“So, strong organic growth prospects and then you add to that a good acquisition pipeline. We think this continues to be a good recipe for creating shareholder value,” she said.

About The Author /

Jayson is a writer, researcher and educator with a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Ottawa. His interests range from bioethics and innovations in the health sciences to governance, social justice and the history of ideas.
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