WisBusiness: More Good than Bad in State Companies’ Quarterly Reports

By Brian E. Clark


An improving national economy and industrial growth abroad was good news for a number of publicly traded Wisconsin companies in the most recent quarter, according to analysts.

Likewise, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan meant more strong returns for Oshkosh Trucks, the state’s largest defense contractor.

But not all Badger State firms prospered in the quarter, and some were punished by Wall Street for poor performances, including small-motor maker, Briggs & Stratton.

“We have the kind of companies that generally benefit when manufacturing is up,” said Todd Parrish, an analyst with R.W. Baird in Milwaukee.

“Similarly, the state’s makers of mining equipment are going strong because the demand for coal is big not only here but in China and India, too,” he said.

“I think the strength of our economy now is reflected in the state’s low unemployment numbers,” he said.

John Nelson, investment director for the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB) agreed with Parrish and said “all in all, Wisconsin companies had a pretty good quarter with more good reports than bad.”

Here are some winners and losers:

  • Oshkosh Truck Corp. boasted a 31 percent surge in earnings, thanks to strong demand for not only its military vehicles, but fire and emergency trucks, too. Net income was $53.1 million, (72 cents a share), up from $40.6 million, or 56 cents, last year. Sales for the quarter ended Dec. 31 increased to $790.3 million from $644.9 million a year ago.

    Better yet, the performance beat forecasts by analysts. Oshkosh also increased its quarterly dividend by 48 percent, increasing from 6.75 cents per share to 10 cents.

  • Milwaukee mining equipment maker Joy Global’s most recent quarter profit nearly tripled from the same period the previous year.

    The company said equipment orders are streaming in from all over the world. Shipments to Russia were up 245 percent and China nearly 100 percent. Officials said growth was driven by the need for coal, iron ore and copper to feed growing economies.

  • Brady Corp. had a record quarter, with the company’s net income rising 26 percent to $51.5 million, or $1.03 per share, from $40.9 million, or 83 cents per share, in the same period a year ago.

    The Milwaukee-based manufacturer of identification and labeling equipment, said its quarterly sales increased 18 percent to $231 million from $196.2 million a year earlier.

  • The Manitowoc Co., which ships huge cranes all over the world, said it had strong increases in net sales and earnings for the last quarter.

    Net sales increased 16 percent to $589.3 million from $507.4 million during the same quarter a year ago. Officials said global demand for its cranes is at record levels. Its food service and marine divisions also did well. The company reported that net sales for the full year gained 22 percent to $2.3 billion.

  • Cudahy-based Ladish Co., a forger of aerospace and industrial components, saw its most recent quarter’s profits shoot up on the strength of industrial orders. The company said net income for the fourth quarter was $3.2 million, more than two-and-a-half times the $1.2 million it earned for the same period the year before.

    Net sales increased 31 percent to $70.4 million from $53.6 million. Sales growth was due in part to the November purchase of the Polish forging business ZKM, which added $6.2 million in sales.

  • Wauwatosa-based Briggs & Stratton Corp. reported quarterly net income of $21.8 million, up from $7.0 million a year ago. The company’s quarterly net sales jumped to $574.3 million, or $503.7 per share. But the earnings were lowered by stock option expenses, legal fees, and employee pension and health care costs.

    Officials also said they plan to raise prices to recoup the rising costs of raw materials and components. And that could cause sales to drop up to 2 percent.

    The company projects those price increases could cause its sales to drop 1 to 2 percent. That announcement drove its stock down by more than 10 percent to $34.83. It closed at $36.22 on Tuesday, down from its 52 week high of $40.43.

  • Greenville-based School Specialty Inc., an educational supply company, reported that its most recent quarter loss doubled, growing to $22.5 million from $11.2 million from the same quarter a year ago. Revenue rose 3.4 percent for the three months ended Jan. 28, to $132.5 million from $128.1 million.

    Executives attributed the dismal results to down sales to schools and an inability to control expenses.

  • Milwaukee-based Sensient Technologies – which makes colorings, flavors and fragrance – reported earnings of just three cents per share for the most recent quarter, a decline of nearly 93 percent.

    The company’s sales were down 7.1 percent for the quarter to $253 million from $272, in part because Sensient lost Hewlett-Packard at the end of 2004 as a color customer.

    For the quarter ending Dec. 31, Sensient reported net income of $1.4 million, down 92.8 percent from $19.1 million, or 41 cents per share, for the fourth quarter in 2004.