Shares of MeadWestvaco Corporation ( MWV ) reached a new 52-week high of $43.21 on Jun 2 before closing lower at $42.96. MeadWestvaco has delivered a solid one-year return of about 28.05% and a year-to-date return of 21.42%, outperforming the S&P 500. Average volume of shares traded over the last three months is approximately 1510K.
Richmond, VA-based MeadWestvaco is a global packaging company catering to healthcare, beauty and personal care, food, beverage, home and garden, tobacco, and agricultural industries with a market cap of $7.21 billion. MeadWestvaco has long-term estimated earnings per share growth rate of 10%.
Shares of MeadWestvaco have been on the rise following its upbeat first-quarter results reported on Apr 30. MeadWestvaco reported first-quarter 2014 adjusted earnings from continuing operations of 23 cents per share, which marked an over twofold increase from the year-ago quarter's earnings per share of 9 cents.
Though MeadWestvaco did not provide any specific guidance for fiscal 2014, it expects earnings to be higher than fiscal 2013 on the back of consistent volume improvement in paperboard packaging and high value dispensing. Furthermore, improved productivity and continued positive operating leverage from increased plant utilization rates will boost earnings.
MeadWestvaco shares got a further push from the news on Jun 2 that investment management firm, Starboard Value LP, has acquired an approximately 5.6% stake in the company. Starboard will be the company's fifth-largest shareholder.
Starboard is pushing for changes at MeadWestvaco on the premise that the combined value of MeadWestvaco's assets far exceeds the company's current share price, and this value is being obscured by MeadWestvaco's excessive corporate overhead and conglomerate structure. Starboard's suggestions include: continuing with cost-cutting efforts, exploring the sale or spinoff of its non-core businesses such as the specialty chemicals business and looking for options to get more value out of its real estate assets. MeadWestvaco has also been advised to repurchase about $500 million of its stock in order to boost shareholder value.
Starboard had previously recommended changes at Office Depot, Inc. ( ODP ), Compuware Corp. ( CPWR ) and Darden Restaurants, Inc. ( DRI ). Improving MeadWestvaco's cost structure and capital allocation per Starboard's suggestions will propel its share price.
MeadWestvaco, in response, put forward the number of actions taken that have significantly enhanced shareholder value. The company has divested more than $6 billion of non-core assets, including well-timed and creative transactions involving the company's Printing and Writing Papers and Consumer & Office Products businesses, and the most recent U.S. forestlands.
MeadWestvaco has returned more than $4 billion directly to shareholders through a combination of regular and special dividends, share repurchases and spin-off distributions. The company has also reduced costs and improved margins in its packaging and specialty chemicals businesses, including completed and ongoing programs that are expected to achieve more than $200 million of permanent annual savings by the end of 2015.
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MeadWestvaco currently holds a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). A better-ranked packaging stock includes Graphic Packaging Holding Co. ( GPK ) with a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).
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