L.B. Foster: Valuation and analysis

In this posting I am going to value and analyze the company I have been researching, L.B. Foster (FSTR).  I will give a brief description of the overall business and then detail the major sections of the business.

L.B. Foster operates individual business units that specialize in rail, construction and tubular products. These groups manage manufacturing, distribution and sales facilities worldwide. The company also functions as a distributor and service provider in
strategic alliances with industry leading manufacturing and engineering firms.  They have three distinct business segments:


L.B. Foster Coated Products operates an ISO 9001:2008 Registered facility that applies FBE corrosion protection, ARO overcoating and internal linings in an advanced technology
environment. The coating plant is located on the site of American Steel Pipe’s Birmingham, Alabama operations.  L.B. Foster Threaded Products has the experience required to deliver quality water well products in today’s rapidly changing
environment. Our company has been a trusted supplier to the vertical pump industry for more than 30 years. The L.B. Foster team of professionals provide timely delivery, superior reliability, consistent quality and an ongoing commitment to customer satisfaction.


L.B. Foster Piling has supplied flat, pipe, H beams and Z sheet pile to the construction industry for more than 80 years. L.B. Foster’s long experience in the production and application of sheet piling extends to today’s current line of quality sheet piling
sections. A wide range of piling accessories, sheet piling and pipe piles are available nationally for sale or rent from convenient regional stocking locations. L.B. Foster Piling maintains a strategic relationship with Gerdau Long Steel North America
and PND Engineers, Inc.  CXT Concrete Buildings is the leading U.S. manufacturer of
precast concrete restroom, shower and concession buildings.  These durable structures are in use at federal, state, county, city and private recreational sites.  L.B. Foster Fabricated Bridge Products provides steel grid bridge flooring, bridge drainage systems, bridge railing, custom pedestrian railing and complete bridge solutions. L.B. Foster bridge products can be found on signature spans in North and South America.


The Rail Products group is a leading, one-source supplier and manufacturer of quality railroad products for mainline, transit, mining, port and industrial markets worldwide. Our full line of railroad products includes new rail, used rail, trackwork materials, rapid response/emergency track panels, crane rail, crane conductor systems, insulated rail joints, concrete ties, rail lubrication systems, transit rail systems, railway securement
systems and locomotive and car repair equipment.

As of the 2011 10K here, the rail segment contributed 55% of revenues, the construction segment 40%, and the tubular segment 5%.

Descriptions of business segments above was taken from the 2011 10K.

These valuations are done by me, using my estimates, and are not a recommendation to buy stock in the company.  Do your own homework.

Valuations were done using first quarter 2012 10Q and 2011 10K.  All numbers are in millions of US dollar, except per share info, unless otherwise noted.

First valuation

Assets: Book Value: Reproduction Value:
Current Assets
Cash 67.8 67.8
Accounts Receivable (Net) 62 49.6
Inventories 96.2 57.7
Prepaid Income Tax 1 0
Other Current Assets 3 0
Total Current Assets 230 175.1
PP&E Net 48 24
Goodwill 44 20
Intangible Assets Net 42.4 20
Investments 3.5 0
Other Assets 1.5 0
Total Assets 369.4 239.1

Total number of shares are 10.1

Reproduction Value:

  • With Intangible assets: 239.1/10.1=$23.67 per share.
  • Without Intangible assets: 219.1/10.1=$21.69 per share.

Current share price is $28.94 per share.

Second valuation

  • Cash and cash equivalents of 67.8
  • Total number of shares are 10.1
  • Total current liabilities are 72

Short term investments+cash and cash equivalents-total current liabilities=

  • 67.8+0-72=-4.2
  • -4.2/10.1=-$0.42 in net cash per share.

L.B. Foster has and EBIT of 5.1-1+35=39.1.  I am using the trailing twelve month EBIT number.

  • 5X, 8X, 11X, and 14X EBIT+ cash and cash equivalents are:
  • 5X39.1=195.5+67.8=263.3
  • 8X39.1=312.8+67.8=380.6
  • 11X39.1=430.1+67.8=497.9
  • 14X39.1=547.4+67.8=615.2
  • 263.3/10.1=$26.07 per share.
  • 380.6/10.1=$37.68 per share.
  • 497.9/10.1=$49.30 per share.
  • 615.2/10.1=$60.91 per share.

Current share price is $28.94 per share.

  • Market cap is 286.7 million.
  • Enterprise value is 221.5 million.
  • EV/EBIT= 221.5/39.1=5.67.

Since I am a very conservative investor I usually use the lowest estimate of value as my base case.  Since the company has good margins, which I will get to shortly, I am going to be using the 8X EBIT estimate of value which is $37.68 per share as my base estimate of value.

With the current share price at $28.94 per share that gets us about a 25% margin of safety.  Good, but not good enough, as I always want at the very least a 30% margin of safety. This company also has some other concerns which I will get to shortly but for now onto the positives.

  • The company has had a current ratio of over 2 since 2006.  A quick ratio of over 1.5 since 2007.
  • Insiders own 5% of the company, would like to be a bit higher but good enough.
  • They have been creating free cash flow since 2008.
  • Return on equity since 2005 has been at least 7%.
  • Return on invested capital has been at least 5% since 2005.
  • The company has no current debt.
  • They have available credit facilities of $123 million.
  • Gross margins have been over 15% since 2007.
  • Operating margin, or EBIT margin, has been over 5% since 2007.
  • The company has recently started paying a dividend and the payout ratio is only 4%, which leaves room for growth.
  • Book value per share has been steadily increasing over the years and the company is currently selling for about book value.
  • The company is selling at a very low 5.67 EV/EBIT.

The Tubular and Rail segments have the best gross margins of the company at 29%, and 22% respectively.  The construction gross margin is 14%, still very good.

With all of the above, FSTR sounds like a screaming buy when it gets to my 30% margin of safety right?  Not so fast.

The company has some risks: pricing competition, poor economy, construction segment of the business is losing revenue due to the Federal Stimulus having run out, the companies backlog of orders has also been decreasing recently, the backlog of orders is used to gauge, possible future revenue.  With those concerns I would still probably be a buyer for sure, just needing a bit more margin of safety.

However, they do have one possibly gigantic concern that I have not talked about yet.  They have an outstanding warranty claim against them that could be devastating to the company if it is found that they sold some defective concrete ties.

Quoting from the most recent 10Q here.

  • Product Liability Claims
    On July 12, 2011 the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) notified the Company and the Company’s subsidiary, CXT Incorporated (CXT), of a warranty claim under CXT’s 2005 supply contract relating to the sale of prestressed concrete railroad ties for the UPRR. The UPRR has asserted that a significant percentage of concrete ties manufactured in 2006 through 2010 at CXT’s Grand Island, NE facility fail to meet contract specifications, have workmanship defects and are cracking and failing prematurely. Approximately 1.6 million ties were sold from Grand Island to the UPRR during the period the UPRR has claimed nonconformance. The 2005 contract calls for each concrete tie which fails to conform to the specifications or has a material defect in workmanship to be replaced with 1.5 new concrete ties, provided, that UPRR within five years of a concrete tie’s production, notifies CXT of such failure to conform or such defect in workmanship.
  • The UPRR’s notice does not specify how many ties manufactured during this period are defective nor which specifications it claims
    were not met or the nature of the alleged workmanship defects. CXT believes it uses sound workmanship processes in the manufacture of concrete ties and has not agreed with the assertions in the UPRR’s warranty claim notice. The UPRR has also notified CXT that ties have failed a certain test that is specified in the 2005 contract. Since late July 2011, the Company and CXT have been working with material scientists and prestressed concrete experts, who have been testing a representative sample of Grand Island concrete ties. While this testing is not complete, the Company has not identified any appreciable defects in workmanship. Additionally, a customer of the UPRR has claimed that a representative sample of ties manufactured by the Company’s Grand Island facility have failed a test contained in its product specification. As a result of this specific allegation, the UPRR has informed the Company that they currently intend to remove approximately 115,000 ties from track, which are a subset of ties subject to the July 12, 2011 claim.
  • The Company is reviewing this claim and, while its review is not complete, the Company continues to believe that these ties do not have a material deviation from its contractual specifications. The Company expects that the testing required to address this product specification issue will be completed sometime during the latter part of the second quarter of 2012; however, the Company expects that it will continue to work collaboratively with the UPRR to address their overall product claim for some time to come.
  • On January 11, 2012, CXT received a subpoena from the United States Department of Transportation Inspector General (“IG”) requesting records related to its manufacture of concrete railroad ties in Grand Island, Nebraska. The Company believes that this subpoena relates to the same set of circumstances giving rise to the UPRR product claim. CXT and the Company intend to cooperate fully with the IG. The Company cannot predict what impact, if any, this investigation will have on the UPRR’s product claim.  Based on the non-specific nature of the UPRR’s assertion and the Company’s current inability to verify the claims, the Company is unable to determine a range of reasonably possible outcomes regarding this potential exposure matter. As a result, no accruals have been made as a result of this claim, as the impact, if any, cannot be reasonably estimated at this time. No assurances can be given regarding the ultimate outcome of this matter. The ultimate resolution of this matter could have a material, adverse impact on the Company’s financial statements, results of operations, liquidity and capital resources.

According to their warranty they owe 1.5 times the amount in question, which is 1.6 million.

  • 1.6 millionX1.5=2.4 million in potential ties they would have to pay for.

Current price that I found for concrete ties is $42 a piece.

Let us assume for the sake of being cautious that they have to replace the entire 2.4 million ties.

  • 2.4 million X$42=$100,800,000 in potential cost.

Even if it is only one half or one-quarter of the 2.4 million than it would be:

  • 1.2 million X$42=$50.4 million.
  • 0.8 million X$42=$33.6 million.
  • If it is only the 115,000 ties that need replacing: 115,000X1.5=172,500 ties.
  • 172,500X$42=$7.245 million.

L.B. Foster currently has around $68 million in cash on hand.  They have $124 million in a revolving credit line that they could use if needed.  So they should be covered even in the absolute worse case scenario.

However, if it is the full $100.8 million amount, that is more than one-third of their current market cap, and almost one half of their enterprise value. Shocking amounts to me.

L.B. Foster has currently only made a reserve of $6.8 million to cover defective ties in this potential situation, which will not even fully cover the absolute minimum case.

As of the most recent 10Q, after analyzing some of the so called defective concrete ties, L.B. Foster has not found any defects in their concrete ties, which is of course very good news.

At worse this could be devastating to L.B. Foster going forward.  If they have to draw down the credit facility they would not be able to fund future growth, make acquisitions, and probably have to stop paying the dividend that they just started. This could also lead to mistrust, loss of faith, and loss of confidence in L.B. Foster.

At best this could turn out to be a minor blip on the radar screen and amount to only a few million dollars worth of ties having to be repaid under the warranty.

There is currently too much uncertainty with the potential warranty claim for me to be a buyer in L.B. Foster at this time.  In the meantime, I will continue to research L.B. Foster, and I will reassess after there is some conclusion to the warranty claim to determine if I will be a buyer at that time or not.

I did not talk about L.B. Foster’s competitors because I cannot to a good degree.  Two of their competitors are private companies who do not release financial information.

Alstom, the other company listed as a competitor to L.B. Foster, is not really a true competitor.  They conduct most of their business in the thermal power area.  They also do most of their business outside of the US, where L.B. Foster does almost all of their business.

So all I can really say about L.B. Foster and their competition is what L.B. Foster says in their SEC filings:  That they are in highly competitive businesses, have to compete on pricing, and have to place highly competitive bids for jobs.

Your thoughts and critique are, as always welcome and wanted.


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