Up 21% in 2016 are James Hardie Industries plc shares still a buy?

Credit: World Bank Photo Collection

Investors who have owned shares in James Hardie Industries plc (ASX: JHX) since the beginning of calendar year 2016 are sitting on a tidy gain of 21%.

That’s impressive outperformance when compared to the 5% rally in the S&P/ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) but could there be even more gains ahead for shareholders?

It’s possible. Based upon this morning’s ASXZ release the outlook for the remained of James Hardie’s financial year (which runs until 31 March 2017) is upbeat.

Here are the key takeaways from the building product manufacturer’s first quarter trading update:

  • Net sales up 12% to US$478 million thanks to a solid performance from North American fibre cement sales which grew 15% to US$370 million
  • Group production volumes increased 12% with strong volume growth of 16% coming from the North American segment
  • Adjusted net operating profit after tax up 5% to U$67 million

What next for James Hardie?

Management noted that it expects to see steady growth in the all-important US housing market with expectations of new construction starts of between 1.2 million and 1.3 million.

Importantly, management expects that net volume growth in North American fibre cement will likely outpace overall market growth by mid-single digits.

This positive outlook led management to provide guidance for the 2017 financial year of between US$260 million and US$290 million which compares favourably with an adjusted profit in 2016 of US$243 million.

What about the other building materials companies?

While many investors own James Hardie for the exposure it provides to the USA economy, its results also have implications for investors in predominantly Australian and New Zealand building suppliers, such as CSR Limited (ASX: CSR), Boral Limited (ASX: BLD), Adelaide Brighton Ltd. (ASX: ABC) and Fletcher Building Limited (Australia) (ASX: FBU).

Here’s what James Hardie had to say about the domestic marketplace:

  • Net sales for the quarter increased primarily due to higher average sales price and increased volume.
  • For the remainder of the year, James Hardie expects the Australian business to trend in line with the average growth of the domestic repair and remodel and single detached housing markets in the eastern states. Meanwhile, the NZ business is expected to deliver improved results supported by growth in residential markets in the North Island.

Based on the comments above, investors may want to take a closer look at both Boral and Fletcher as these two businesses are better exposed to the stronger growing regions of the USA and NZ respectively.

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Motley Fool contributor Tim McArthur has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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