Badger Meter Inc Value Stock - Dividend - Research Selection
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Description of the company
Badger Meter, Inc. (the “Company”) is a leading innovator, manufacturer and marketer of products incorporating flow measurement, control and communication solutions serving markets worldwide. The Company was incorporated in 1905.
Market Overview, Products, Systems and Solutions
Badger Meter is an innovator in flow measurement, control and communication solutions, serving water utilities, municipalities, and commercial and industrial customers worldwide. The Company’s products measure water, oil, chemicals and other fluids, and are known for accuracy, long-lasting durability and for providing and communicating valuable and timely measurement data. The Company’s product lines fall into two categories: sales of water meters and related technologies to municipal water utilities (municipal water) and sales of meters to various industries for water and other fluids (flow instrumentation). The Company estimates that over 85% of its products are used in water applications when both categories are grouped together.
Municipal water, the largest category by sales volume, includes mechanical and ultrasonic (electronic) water meters and related technologies and services used by municipal water utilities as the basis for generating water and wastewater revenues. The key market for the Company’s municipal water meter products is North America, primarily the United States, because most of the Company's meters are designed and manufactured to conform to standards promulgated by the American Water Works Association. The majority of water meters sold by the Company continues to be mechanical in nature. In recent years, the Company has made inroads in selling ultrasonic water meters. The development of smaller diameter ultrasonic water meters combined with advanced radio technology now provides the Company with the opportunity to sell into other geographical markets, for example Europe, the Middle East and South America. In the municipal water category, sales of water meters and related technologies and services are also commonly referred to as residential or commercial water meter sales, the latter referring to larger sizes of water meters.
Flow instrumentation includes meters and valves sold worldwide to measure and control materials flowing through a pipe or pipeline including water, air, steam, oil, and other liquids and gases. These products are used in a variety of applications, primarily into the following industries: water/wastewater; heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC); oil and gas; chemical and petrochemical; test and measurement; automotive aftermarket; and the concrete construction process. Furthermore, the Company’s flow instrumentation technologies are sold to original equipment manufacturers as the primary flow measurement device within a product or system.
Residential and commercial water meters are generally classified as either manually read meters or remotely read meters via radio technology. A manually read meter consists of a water meter and a register that provides a visual totalized meter reading. Meters equipped with radio technology (endpoints) receive flow measurement data from encoder registers attached to the water meter, which is encrypted and transmitted via radio frequency to a receiver that collects and formats the data appropriately for water utility billing systems. These remotely read, or mobile, systems are either automatic meter reading (AMR) systems, where a vehicle equipped for meter reading purposes, including a radio receiver, computer and reading software, collects the data from utilities’ meters; or fixed network advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) systems, where data is gathered utilizing a cellular network, which is a network of permanent data collectors or gateway receivers that are always active or listening for the radio transmission from the utilities’ meters. AMI systems eliminate the need for utility personnel to drive through service territories to collect data from the meters. These systems provide the utilities with more frequent and diverse data from their meters at specified intervals.
The ORION® family of radio endpoints provides water utilities with a range of industry-leading options for meter reading. These include ORION Migratable (ME) for mobile meter reading, ORION (SE) for traditional fixed network applications, and ORION Cellular for infrastructure-free fixed network meter reading. ORION Migratable makes the migration to fixed network easier for utilities that prefer to start with mobile reading and later adopt fixed network communications, allowing utilities to choose a solution for their current needs and be positioned for their future operational changes. ORION Cellular eliminates the need for utility-owned fixed network infrastructure, allows for rapid deployment and decreases ongoing maintenance.
Critical to the water metering ecosystem is information and analytics. The Company’s BEACON® Advanced Metering Analytics (AMA) managed solution is the latest in metering technology. BEACON AMA combines the BEACON analytical software suite with proven ORION technologies using two-way cellular-based fixed networks in a managed solution, improving utilities’ visibility of their water consumption and eliminating the need for costly utility-managed infrastructure.
The BEACON AMA secure, cloud-hosted software suite includes a customizable dashboard, the ability to establish alerts for specific conditions, and consumer engagement tools that allow end water customers to view and manage their water usage activity. Benefits to the utility include improved customer service, increased visibility through faster leak detection, the ability to promote and quantify the effects of its water conservation efforts, and easier compliance reporting.
The Company’s net sales and corresponding net earnings depend on unit volume and product mix, with the Company generally earning higher margins on meters equipped with radio technology. The Company’s proprietary radio products generally result in higher margins than the remarketed, non-proprietary technology products. The Company also sells registers and endpoints separately to customers who wish to upgrade their existing meters in the field.
Water meter replacement and the adoption and deployment of new technology comprise the majority of water meter product sales, including radio products. To a much lesser extent, housing starts also contribute to the new product sales base. Over the last decade, there has been a growing trend in the conversion from manually read water meters to radio technology. This conversion rate is accelerating and contributes to an increased water meter and radio solutions base of business. The Company estimates that approximately 55% to 60% of water meters installed in the United States have been converted to a radio solutions technology. The Company’s strategy is to fulfill customers’ metering expectations and requirements with its proprietary meter reading systems or other systems available through its alliance partners in the marketplace.
Flow instrumentation products serve flow measurement and control applications across a broad industrial spectrum, occasionally leveraging the same technologies used in the municipal water category. Specialized communication protocols that control the entire flow measurement process and mandatory certifications drive these markets. The Company’s specific flow measurement and control applications and technologies serve the flow measurement market through both customized and standard flow instrumentation solutions.
Industries today face accelerating demands to contain costs, reduce product variability, and meet ever-changing safety, regulatory and sustainability requirements. To address these challenges, customers must reap more value from every component in their systems. This system-wide scrutiny has heightened the focus on flow instrumentation in industrial process, manufacturing, commercial fluid, building automation and precision engineering applications where flow measurement and control are critical.
An industry leader in both mechanical and electronic flow metering technologies, the Company offers one of the broadest flow measurement, control and communication portfolios in the market. This portfolio carries respected brand names including Recordall®, E-Series®, ORION, Hedland®, Dynasonics®, Blancett®, and Research Control®, and includes eight of the ten major flow meter technologies. Customers rely on the Company for application-specific solutions that deliver accurate, timely and dependable flow data and control essential for product quality, cost control, safer operations, regulatory compliance and more sustainable operations.
The Company's products are sold throughout the world through employees, resellers and representatives. Depending on the customer mix, there can be a moderate seasonal impact on sales, primarily relating to higher sales of certain municipal water products during the spring and summer months. No single customer accounts for more than 10% of the Company's sales.
There are competitors in each category in which the Company sells its products, and the competition varies from moderate to intense. Major competitors for utility water meters include Xylem, Inc. ("Sensus"), Neptune Technology Group Inc., a subsidiary of Roper Technologies, Inc. ("Neptune"), Master Meter, Inc. and Mueller Water Products, Inc. Together with Badger Meter, it is estimated that these companies sell in excess of 90% of the water meters in the North American market, which has been somewhat insulated from other competitors due to the nature of the mechanical technology used and the standards promulgated by the American Water Works Association. In recent years, the Company, as well as some of its competitors, have introduced various forms of electronic meters, which have no moving parts, and have seen sales of those products begin to grow. As the global water metering market, including the North American market, begins to adopt these technologies, Kamstrup A/S, Diehl Metering GmbH and Itron, Inc. are also potential competitors.
The Company's primary competitors for water utility radio products in North America are Itron, Inc., Neptune and Sensus. Outside of North America, the primary competitors include Itron, Inc., Sensus, Diehl Metering GmbH and Elster GmbH, a subsidiary of Honeywell International Inc. While the Company sells its own proprietary radio systems (ORION and GALAXY®), it is also a reseller of the Itron® products. A number of the Company's competitors in certain markets have greater financial resources than the Company. The Company, however, believes it currently provides the leading technologies in water meters and radio water systems. As a result of significant research and development activities, the Company enjoys favorable patent positions and trade secret protections for several of its technologies, products and processes.
There are many competitors in the flow instrumentation markets due to the various markets and applications being served. For example, major competitors in the flow instrumentation markets include Emerson Electric Company, Krohne Messtechnik GmbH, Endress+Hauser AG and Yokogawa Electric Corporation. In the HVAC market, the key competitor is Onicon Incorporated. In upstream oil and gas, Cameron International Corporation is the primary competitor. The Company competes with AW-Lake Company in the measurement of on-machine hydraulic fluids. With a portfolio consisting of products utilizing eight of the ten major flow meter technologies, the Company is well positioned to compete in these markets.
The Company's total backlog of unshipped orders at December 31, 2017 and 2016 was $28.9 million and $40.5 million, respectively. The backlog is comprised of firm orders and signed contractual commitments, or portions of such commitments that call for shipment within 12 months. Backlog can be significantly affected by the timing of orders for large projects and the amounts can vary due to the timing of work performed.