Big Bills Are Big Business

Our dollars are the reserve currency of the world, accepted just about anywhere anything is sold. In fact,  as much as 70% of the 10.8 billion $100 bills in circulation are outside of the U.S., but grannies trying to buy bread in inflation-wracked economies like Venezuela aren’t the only people using them; organized crime of all stripes have made $100 bills the currency of choice.

The cash economy costs governments some serious greenbacks from people who get paid in cash and often don’t report those earnings to Uncle Sam. The IRS estimates that in 2006 $385 billion in tax revenue was lost to the cash economy. No wonder many economists, including former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, have suggested that the U.S. stop issuing $100 bills. The move is hardly unprecedented. The U.K. stopped issuing 500 pound notes in 2010 after police found that 90% of them ended up in the hands of organized crime. India recalled all of its 500 and 1,000 rupee notes last year in the fight against tax evasion and corruption.

But there’s another way to deal with this problem: Make the bills more secure. That’s where Viavi Solutions (NSDQ: VIAV) comes in. The stock has soared in the last year, but we think there’s more room to run. Just don’t hesitate and buy below $11 a share.

The Currency Cash Cow

One of Viavi’s core businesses is making optically variable pigment, optically variable magnetic pigment and banknote thread substrates. Those are just technical names for currency security features; variable pigments make inks change colors as you shift the bills and variable magnetic pigments are used to print the metallic images. Thread substrates make currency more durable while also enabling security features like text and machine-readable magnetism to allow sensors to detect counterfeit notes.

Viavi, a strong proven innovator in those products, has become a leading supplier to more than 100 countries, with its threads and inks used in 300 different bills. In fact, the company expects a strong earnings pop in the second half of its current fiscal year from currency redesigns in several countries.

Thanks to government concern about currency security, Viavi posted a better-than-expected fiscal 2016. While revenue from its network and service enablement business (which I’ll get to in a second) fell by 3%, revenue from optical security and performance products rose 29%. As a result, normalized earnings per share came in a much better-than-expected 38 cents, sparking a run up in the share price when the results were reported in September.

Over the long haul, helping secure global currencies should continue to be a cash cow for Viavi. That’s especially true because, as part of that business, Viavi has developed other advanced optical coatings with potential uses in cameras, 3D sensing applications, automotive pigments and even missile guidance systems. Those tend to be higher-value, higher-margin applications that will accelerate revenue and earnings growth.

Growth From Another Segment

The network and service enablement business has a lot of potential too, and it accounted for 73% of revenue last year. This business segment provides testing and maintenance equipment used to keep fiber optic networks up and running at peak levels. In fact, one of the reasons Viavi’s stock has moved strongly higher over the past few months was because the company introduced a new testing platform called Certifi. This cloud-based platform lets cabling contractors manage test and certification projects, more efficiently and monitor progress with greater precision. Certifi also allows for multiple user interfaces and functions, so a project can be tracked from beginning to end on a single platform. The day the new platform was announced in mid-January, the stock rose by more than 5%.

The market for those products could be expanding rapidly soon. President Trump has said he wants to spend $1 trillion on our nation’s infrastructure over the next decade, including broadband fiber optic networks. Although how much Congressional support that plan will have remains to be seen, staffers on the commerce committees from both parties and houses of Congress say they want to include a “dig once” measure in any bill. That measure would include a requirement that any federally funded highway-construction projects install conduits for fiber optic broadband alongside roadways.

Rolling in Dough

Besides that growth potential, Viavi also is sitting on a lot of cash—just over $1 billion in cash is on its balance sheet or roughly 40% of the company’s $2.48 billion market cap. If infrastructure spending takes some time to start flowing or governments slow their currency revamps, Viavi is liquid enough to continue innovating while it waits out the slump.

For the current quarter, the company expects revenue to come in between $188 million and $204 million, with earnings per share of 6 cents to 8 cents. The consensus estimate is for $197.6 million in revenue and earnings of 8 cents. For the full year, Viavi expects revenue between $830 million to $860 million with EPS around 30 cents. Analysts, on the other hand, are predicting lower revenue of just $819 million and a higher EPS of 35 cents, so if more business starts rolling in, look for the shares to move higher—the potential is a 30% gain this year.

The shares already are on a roll, having moved up the last year, more or less steadily, 67% to about $10.60 a share.

Buy Viavi Solutions up to $11.

Stock Talk

Cliff L

Cliff L

Is VIAV still part of BTP portfolio? Don’t see it in the portfolio table.

Jim Pearce

Jim Pearce

Hi Cliff. Sorry about that, don’t know what happened but it is now showing in the portfolio. Thanks for letting us know.

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