The stars are aligning perfectly for Select Harvests Limited (ASX: SHV) with the stock topping the S&P/ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) leaderboardas it surged to an eight-year high on the back of a trading update. Shares in Select Harvests rallied 9.6% to $12.28 after the almond grower upgraded both its volume and price estimates for its crop in the face of growing global demand and the restricted supply of the nut. With nearly three quarters of its crop processed so far, management believes it will be able to produce 14,500 tonnes of almonds, which is 8.2% above its previous estimate. Further, its almonds are now expected to fetch an average price of $11.45 per kilogram compared to $11 a kilogram thanks in part to the falling Australian dollar. This essentially means a 13% upgrade to Select Harvests’ topline and given the high-fixed cost base of agribusinesses, a small change in sales tends to have a disproportionate impact on profits. What’s more, the fundamentals for almonds are expected to remain robust for the foreseeable future as demand is far outstripping supply. The United States, which is the largest grower and consumer of almonds, shipped 6.4% less produce since the start of the year compared to the same period in 2014, while the high price of almonds is not putting off consumers as forward US domestic commitments are up 15% at 135.5 million pounds on June 2014. There’s also a growing appetite for almonds in other key markets with Chinese demand up 62% in June and India up 25% year-to-date. The weather is working in Select Harvests’ favour with severe drought conditions in the US curtailing supply, while the cold snap in Australia sets the scene for a potential boom crop for Select Harvests in 2016. There is no end in sight to the drought gripping California and demand for almonds is expected to stay strong over the medium – if not long term. While the stock has jumped 143% over the past year, there’s still value in the stock at today’s price as today’s upgrade could potentially put the stock on a 2015-16 consensus price-earnings multiple of around 13x. That’s a big discount to the global sector, which tends to trade at around a 25x multiple. Such a big discount isn’t justified in my opinion given that the tailwinds from the lower Australian dollar and lack of supply are expected to persist for some time yet.
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