Navistar, CENX, AXL: Should You Bet On These Turnaround Stories?

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Shares of companies showing remarkable turnaround or even hints of it are often subject of brisk advances.

Navistar International Corp (NYSE:NAV), Century Aluminum Co (NASDAQ:CENX), and American Axle & Manufact. Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AXL) are players which are expected to show just this and the market seems to be buying this story. Here is if you should:

Navistar, CENX, AXL: Should You Bet On These Turnaround Stories?

After ramming the truck in wall, Navistar is recovering

Navistar International Corp (NYSE:NAV) is a manufacturer of International brand commercial trucks, IC Bus brand buses, and MaxxForce brand diesel engines. Investors may not think of the mundane truck business as something where companies have much scope of innovation. However, Navistar went on to prove otherwise with a new engine technology called exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) to meet new and stricter emission norms.

This was in 2007 that these requirements were to be phased in and the world was betting on a competing ‘selective catalytic reduction’ (SCR) technology which Navistar derided. What followed was a series of stuck development and sales of non-compliant engines and trucks for more than two years since 2010 when the requirements came in full force.

This resulted in heavy penalties for Navistar International Corp (NYSE:NAV) – crimping the company’s finances and allegedly bringing it closer to bankruptcy by some accounts. It took long for the company to realize its mistake but lately it has abandoned its plans and is now sourcing SCR engines from a European producer.

Navista rInternational Corp (NYSE:NAV) shares were battered but are recovering now as it becomes increasingly obvious that the company’s finances are set to change for good. Shares have gained 31 percent over the last quarter but are still nowhere close to the highs of yester years. Analysts are also bullish about the company which is reflected in generally positive recommendations for the stock.

The improvement in finances is already visible in the numbers presented for the quarter ended March. Revenues suffered during the quarter for obvious reasons but the company demonstrated firmer grip on costs, indicated in a reduced net loss of $123 million. This is lower from previous year as well as previous quarter.

California based aluminum producer Century Aluminum Co (NASDAQ:CENX) is another player in this league. The stock is down nearly 6 percent on annual basis as markets attached heavy discounts on material stocks. Given the carnage in metal prices last year, this was justified too. However, the situation is improving as companies learn ways to deal with lower selling prices. In the quarter March 31, Century Aluminum reported revenues of $321 million, marginally lower than the $326 million in the same period a year ago, but it was the bottom line which stole the show. Profits stood at $8.2 million during the latest three months in a complete contrast to a loss of $4.4 million in Q1 2012. Market seems to like the story by sending the stock up more than 20 percent in the last month. The stock still trades at a forward price earnings multiple of 15 and at a 22 percent discount to its book value of $11 per share.

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Another stock related to automotive industry showing fresh signs that the worst is behind is American Axle & Manufact. Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AXL). The company is a producer of driveline and drivetrain systems and related components and chassis modules for the automotive industry and counts several global automakers as its clients. The stock has gained more than 22 percent over the last quarter as investors come to realize the company is undervalued.

This is reflected in a debt free balance sheet and a price earnings ratio of just 3.1. In the most recent quarter, the company reported a sharp drop in profits but revenues increased, beating street expectations. As markets were already expecting lower profits, this did not come as a surprise but revenues of $755.6 million topped mean analyst expectations of $750 million. The market has taken the results positively as continued traction in revenue growth is likely to result in better profits in quarters to come.

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