NCR, celebrating 50th anniversary of the ATM, poised to take on the grocery wars

  • TipRanks forecasts a more than 30 percent potential upside for NCR shares over the next 12 months.
  • Last week, JPMorgan analyst Paul Coster pegged the stock as his top pick.
  • Amazon-Whole Foods deal is expected to spur investment by other grocers and retailers in self-checkout and other technology.
Source: NCR

NCR has facilitated retail transactions since it introduced mechanical cash registers to merchants in the late 19th century, and it later helped transform banking with automated teller machines.

Grocery stores may give the Duluth, Georgia, company its next boost.

Amazon's deal to buy Whole Foods Market is likely to spur spending on technology in the grocery and retail industry, particularly on the type of self-checkout and checkout-free systems that NCR has been developing, analysts said.

Although NCR's stock has languished around $39 a share this year, TipRanks, an analyst ranking website, forecasts the potential for a more than 30 percent gain over the next 12 months, and analysts it tracks rate NCR a strong buy.

Last week, JPMorgan analyst Paul Coster called the stock his top pick because of strong demand in the grocery industry for NCR's self-checkout technology and for the software that retailers use to manage inventory and other behind-the-scenes activities.

As NCR, once known as National Cash Register, marks the 50th anniversary of the ATM on Tuesday, some analysts say it and its chief executive, Bill Nuti, haven't gotten enough credit for transforming its business from a hardware maker to a software developer.

"Traditionally, this was an ATM company that is now the market leader in self-checkout and point-of-sale," said Daniel Kurnos, an analyst at The Benchmark Company, and it is still taking market share in ATMs, despite already controlling over a third of the market.

"Bill Nuti deserves a lot of credit for telling the future in many ways and seeing that the company needed to pivot its business strategy," Kurnos said.

The shift in strategy required Nuti to have a longer view than most on Wall Street could stomach. NCR attempted to sell itself in recent years in the face of declining profit and pressure from activist shareholders, ultimately agreeing in 2015 to sell an $820 million stake to the private equity giant Blackstone. NCR said it would use the proceeds of the 17 percent stake sale to speed up its transition to a software and services company.

Earlier this year, Blackstone sold about half that stake.

Its transformation has involved deals to acquire smaller companies with more exposure to e-commerce, such as Radiant Systems in 2011 and Retalix in 2013, both of which provide technology and software for retailers.

"If you were an investor at certain periods of time and the company was investing a lot of capital into this business transition, there wasn't a lot of money in the stock," Kurnos said. "All of that is starting to pay dividends now."