WisBusiness: First Quarter Good for Wisconsin Manufacturers

By Brian E. Clark

The majority of publicly traded Badger State companies did well in the most recent quarter, especially those that are engaged in manufacturing, experts said.

But there were exceptions to the good news and some Wisconsin firms saw their earnings and profits slide.

“Generally, our economy is humming along quite nicely,” said Chuck Krueger, an associate professor in the executive education program of the UW-Madison Business School.

He pointed to Manitowoc as a Wisconsin manufacturer that is thriving because of strong worldwide demand for its cranes. Similarly, Bucyrus and Joy Global have seen strong demand for their mining equipment, he said.

Todd Parrish, an analyst with R.W. Baird in Milwaukee, agreed that the Badger State economy is thriving and said the best performing sectors in the quarter were energy, up about 8.5 percent; materials (precious metals, coal, chemicals, forest products), up 8.5 percent and industrials, up about 7 percent.

“The part of the economy that pulls materials up out of the ground, sells the materials and manufactures things has been doing well,” he said.

“In summary, we had an outstanding quarter because of our industrial exposure,” he said. “How long that will last is unknown.”

On the downside, he said consumer spending on staples and discretionary items like vehicles were weak. The healthcare sector also struggled and had flat growth, he said.

Here are some state winners and losers:


Bucyrus International first quarter profits rose 37 percent in the first quarter, with sales of new machines jumping 93 percent to $53.5 million. The company’s quarterly profit was $14.5 million, up from $9.1 million for the same period a year ago. The company’s huge electric mining shovels can sell for as much as $20 million a pop.

The Manitowoc Company, a leading crane manufacturer, reported record levels of net sales and earnings during the first quarter. Net sales increased 24 percent to $633.0 million from $510.3 million during the first quarter of 2005. Reported earnings per diluted share were $0.48 for the 2006 quarter compared to $0.11 for the 2005 quarter.

Joy Global Inc., a mining equipment maker, reported that net sales for the first quarter of 2006 increased an impressive 48 percent to $553 million, compared with $374 million in the first quarter of last year. Operating income totaled $90 million in the first quarter, compared to $42 million for the same quarter last year, an increase of 114 percent. Net income was $60 million, or $0.48 per diluted share in the quarter, compared with $22 million, or $0.18 per diluted share in the first quarter of fiscal 2005.

— Glendale-based Manpower Inc. said first-quarter net earnings increased 63 percent to $52.6 million, or 59 cents per share, from $32.2 million, or 35 cents per share, in the same quarter last year. The staffing firm’s revenues for the first quarter were $3.9 billion, up 5 percent from a year earlier.

— Bucking a general decline in consumer spending, Menomonee Falls-based Kohl’s Corp. reported that total first-quarter sales were up 16.1 percent for the quarter ending over the same period a year ago. The department store company will release its earnings report this afternoon.


Journal Communications, the parent company of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, reported that first quarter earnings fell nearly 30 percent compared to the same quarter a year ago. The publisher said net income fell to $12.3 million, or 17 cents a share, down from $17.4 million, or 23 cents a share, a year ago. Broadcast revenue rose 39 percent to $51.6 million, while other segments saw decreases. The broadcast growth was helped by the addition of three new stations and the Winter Olympics.

— Wauwatosa-based Briggs & Stratton Corp., the globe’s biggest maker of small engines, reported first-quarter earnings of $60 million, or $1.16 a share. Those earnings were 9 percent below company estimates. Briggs said it had $800 million in sales in the quarter, 5 percent below sales of $840 million in the same period in 2005. The company blamed a slow start to the lawn-and-garden season.

— Wisconsin Rapids-based Renaissance Learning Inc. reported a 46 percent decline in first-quarter earnings, compared to the same period last year. The company, which makes computerized learning aids for schools, reported that net income fell to $3.48 million, or 12 cents a share, from $6.46 million, or 21 cents, in the year-ago quarter.

— Green Bay-based Wisconsin Public Service Corp. reported that first quarter net income declined 9 percent in the first quarter, falling to $60.1 million from $65.9 million for the same period last year. Revenue increased 37 percent, to $2.04 billion from $1.49 billion, but income declined 41 percent because of customer conservation due to rising natural gas prices and relatively warm winter weather.