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Aspen Well Positioned for Oil and Gas Rebound

The wide-moat firm's technology applies to many fields, and opportunities continue to appear.

Dan Romanoff: We see wide-moat Aspen Technology as an interesting niche software company selling into the industrial process automation vertical market. Aspen’s software optimizes asset design, operations, and maintenance in complex industrial environments. The AspenOne software platform helps improve process-oriented plant efficiency, and thereby lowers capital intensity, increases working capital efficiency, and improves margins. This is high-end software that competes against offerings from industrial automation companies like Siemens, Emerson, and Schneider Electric.

Shares have gapped up in the months since our mid-December launch. Most of that has occurred since tensions increased with Iran. Given that Aspen software is used predominantly for the oil, gas, chemical, and energy industries, at times shares become decoupled from the underlying business fundamentals and trade based on the volatility of oil. We now see shares as overvalued.

Outside of valuation, we see Aspen as a well-positioned company. Oil and gas capex has been restrained for more than a year and is set for at least a modest rebound in 2020, which we think will benefit Aspen. We also like the diversification effort in recent years away from core industries. Today we see 7% of revenue coming from pharmaceuticals, consumer packaged goods, mining, paper and pulp, and so forth. We think this continues to pick up gradually over time.

Given the mature industries Aspen serves, we view growth as being less robust than many of the software companies within our coverage, which we think it makes up for by generating among the highest non-GAAP operating margins in the market. Aspen already serves virtually all the largest oil refineries, chemical companies, and engineering and construction companies. We see a $5 billion TAM for the company, and see opportunity to add smaller clients as it continues to further penetrate its existing base of large customers.

Dan Romanoff does not own (actual or beneficial) shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.