Thievery Highlights Potential Moneymaker

Here is a bizarre story out of Flint, Michigan. Apparently, city officials reported that about 400 cast iron covers and grates had to be replaced over the past year due to theft. According to the article in “The Flint Journal,” iron covers fetch $20.00 from a scrap yard. Doing the math, that is around $8,000 for the thieves. This may seem a bit strange, but given the high price of metals, you had to know it was going to happen. Copper telephone wires and plumbing in new houses yet to be occupied have also become the target of thieves. Whatever is removable is a target.

 For those looking at companies that deal in scrap metals, you may want to take a look at Copart, Inc. (NASDAQ/CPRT; Market cap: $3.61 billion), an operator of facilities that process and sell salvage vehicles to licensed dismantlers, rebuilders and used-vehicle dealers. Salvage vehicles are damaged vehicles that are written off as a total loss or recovered stolen vehicles where an insurance settlement has been made. Copart operates 145 facilities in the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Canada.

 On the operations front, Copart is currently consistently profitable, and it reported improvement in the recent third quarter of fiscal 2008, ended April 30, 2008. The company bounced back after reporting a soft second quarter. In the quarter, revenue growth was an impressive 51.8% to over two hundred and twenty-one million dollars, while earnings grew at 19.6% to forty-six and a half million dollars, or $0.52 per diluted share — $0.04 above the average Street estimate. The addition of the company’s operations in the U.K. helped to drive revenues. Copart is also undergoing a share buyback program, which I view as a positive insider signal.

 The stock trades at 20.69 times its estimated FY09 (ending July 2009) earnings per share (EPS) of $2.09 and has a PEG ratio of 1.47, which is not cheap.