Marten Transport (NASDAQ: MRTN) and Heartland Express (NASDAQ:HTLD) are both small-cap transportation companies, but which is the better business? We will contrast the two companies based on the strength of their risk, analyst recommendations, institutional ownership, valuation, profitability, earnings and dividends.

Volatility and Risk

Marten Transport has a beta of 1.27, meaning that its share price is 27% more volatile than the S&P 500. Comparatively, Heartland Express has a beta of 0.51, meaning that its share price is 49% less volatile than the S&P 500.

Valuation and Earnings

This table compares Marten Transport and Heartland Express’ top-line revenue, earnings per share (EPS) and valuation.

Gross Revenue Price/Sales Ratio EBITDA Earnings Per Share Price/Earnings Ratio
Marten Transport $687.80 million 1.27 $133.29 million $0.63 25.64
Heartland Express $548.88 million 3.16 $165.62 million $0.66 31.58

Heartland Express has higher revenue, but lower earnings than Marten Transport. Marten Transport is trading at a lower price-to-earnings ratio than Heartland Express, indicating that it is currently the more affordable of the two stocks.

Dividends

Marten Transport pays an annual dividend of $0.06 per share and has a dividend yield of 0.4%. Heartland Express pays an annual dividend of $0.08 per share and has a dividend yield of 0.4%. Marten Transport pays out 9.6% of its earnings in the form of a dividend. Heartland Express pays out 12.1% of its earnings in the form of a dividend. Both companies have healthy payout ratios and should be able to cover their dividend payments with earnings for the next several years.

Profitability

This table compares Marten Transport and Heartland Express’ net margins, return on equity and return on assets.

Net Margins Return on Equity Return on Assets
Marten Transport 4.96% 7.72% 5.18%
Heartland Express 9.89% 10.60% 7.28%

Insider & Institutional Ownership

40.7% of Marten Transport shares are held by institutional investors. Comparatively, 60.0% of Heartland Express shares are held by institutional investors. 23.0% of Marten Transport shares are held by insiders. Comparatively, 42.1% of Heartland Express shares are held by insiders. Strong institutional ownership is an indication that large money managers, hedge funds and endowments believe a company is poised for long-term growth.

Analyst Ratings

This is a summary of current recommendations for Marten Transport and Heartland Express, as provided by MarketBeat.com.

Sell Ratings Hold Ratings Buy Ratings Strong Buy Ratings Rating Score
Marten Transport 0 2 0 0 2.00
Heartland Express 2 10 1 0 1.92

Marten Transport currently has a consensus target price of $15.00, suggesting a potential downside of 6.54%. Heartland Express has a consensus target price of $15.11, suggesting a potential downside of 27.49%. Given Marten Transport’s stronger consensus rating and higher probable upside, analysts plainly believe Marten Transport is more favorable than Heartland Express.

Summary

Heartland Express beats Marten Transport on 11 of the 16 factors compared between the two stocks.

Marten Transport Company Profile

Marten Transport, Ltd. is a temperature-sensitive truckload carrier. The Company focuses on transporting and distributing food and other consumer-packaged goods that require a temperature-controlled or insulated environment. The Company operates through four segments: Truckload, Dedicated, Intermodal and Brokerage. It operates throughout the United States and in parts of Canada and Mexico. The Company’s medium-to-long-haul traffic lanes are between the Midwest and the West Coast, Southwest, Southeast, and the East Coast, as well as from California to the Pacific Northwest. It provides regional truckload carrier services in the Southeast, West Coast, Midwest, South Central and Northeast regions. It also offers loading and unloading activities, equipment detention and other ancillary services. The Company’s Truckload segment provides a combination of regional short-haul and medium-to-long-haul full-load transportation services.

Heartland Express Company Profile

Heartland Express, Inc. is a holding company. The Company is a short-to-medium haul truckload carrier. The Company focuses primarily on short- to medium-haul, asset-based dry van truckload services in regional markets near its terminals. The Company’s truckload services are primarily asset-based transportation services in the dry van truckload market, and it also offers truckload temperature-controlled transportation services and non-asset based brokerage services. All tractors are equipped with mobile communication systems. Its primary customers include retailers and manufacturers. It provides nationwide asset-based dry van truckload service for shippers from Washington to Florida and New England to California. The Company provides truckload services across the United States and parts of Canada. As of December 31, 2016, it had operated 20 terminal facilities throughout the contiguous United States in addition to its terminal and corporate headquarters in North Liberty, Iowa.

Receive News & Ratings for Marten Transport Ltd. Daily - Enter your email address below to receive a concise daily summary of the latest news and analysts' ratings for Marten Transport Ltd. and related companies with MarketBeat.com's FREE daily email newsletter.