Zebra Technologies, Inc. Trotted Right Past Wall Street's Estimates Again

Zebra Technologies' corporate logo in black and white, featuring the eponymous animal next to the company name.

Zebra Technologies (NASDAQ: ZBRA) reported second-quarter results early Tuesday morning. The provider of barcode scanners, data-tracking systems, and information management tools crushed Wall Street's expectations and the stock rose as much as 17% in Tuesday's trading session.

Here's a closer look at Zebra's results, including some exclusive info straight from the CEO.

Zebra Technologies' second quarter by the numbers

Data source: Zebra Technologies.

Your average Wall Street analyst would have settled for earnings near $2.23 per share on sales in the neighborhood of $989 million. Zebra trotted right past both of these consensus estimates.

The results also landed ahead of Zebra's official guidance ranges , which topped out at $2.30 per share on the bottom line and $1 billion in terms of revenue. Management also boosted their full-year revenue guidance from roughly 8% growth to something more like an 11% jump.

Additionally, the free cash flow target increased from at least $500 million to $525 million or more. That includes $233 million of free cash collected so far in 2018. In the second quarter alone, Zebra's free cash flow increased by 75% year over year to land at $135 million. All of this surplus cash is going into debt reduction at the moment, lowering Zebra's debt leverage ratio from 4.8 times 2015's EBITDA profits to 2.5 times the current EBITDA run-rate.

The strong results rested on broad-based market strength, where three of Zebra's four geographic regions posted year-over-year sales growth of at least 8%. The lone underperformer was found in Latin America, mostly due to businesses in Mexico stepping back from infrastructure upgrades during the presidential elections. Among Zebra's product and service categories, the surge was led by mobile computing, data capture, and printing solutions.

Chewing the cud with Zebra's CEO

I jumped on the phone with Zebra CEO Anders Gustafsson to get a closer look at the second quarter.

First, I wanted to see whether Zebra is planning to take its debt leverage any lower. The other Anders reminded me that the long-term target range runs from net debt of 2.0 to 2.5 times trailing EBITDA totals, so the company is standing at the upper end of that general area.

"We will continue to drive it down for the next six months here," Gustafsson said. "Even with the [recently announced, $90 million] acquisition of [rugged tablet maker] Xplore Technologies (NASDAQ: XPLR) , we will be comfortably toward the lower end of that range by the end of the year."

Gustafsson also feels good about Zebra's relative position in the data collection and management markets.

"Every company has its challenges, but I'd rather have our challenges than the competition's challenges," he said. "We expect that we will continue to extend our leadership in the industry here, and our Enterprise Asset Intelligence vision continues to resonate with our customers."

That vision is translating into direct results for Zebra as the company capitalizes on its good name in the industry.

"We had a big win last week where I think that a big part of why we won was that the customer looked at us as someone who could go beyond their immediate needs and provide solutions that would be of value to them over the next many years," Gustafsson said.

The upshot in black and white: this Zebra is going places

Zebra Technologies sits at the crossroads of several important macro trends, invoking buzzwords like Big Data, enterprise mobility, the Internet of Things , and cloud computing all at once.

That's a pleasant position to be in, and Zebra's investors have embraced the company's progress. Share prices have surged 60% higher in 2018 alone and gained 73% over the last 52 weeks. The stock is one of my highest-scoring CAPS picks to date and I see no reason why the good times should stop rolling anytime soon.

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Anders Bylund has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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