WisBusiness: Heavy industry companies outperform in 07

By Brian E. Clark

Two of the three top-performing publicly traded Wisconsin companies for 2007 are in the heavy manufacturing sector, according to an analysis by Robert W. Baird & Co.

But first place goes to Third Wave Technologies, a Madison-based biotech company whose stock soared from $4.81 to $9.65 during 2007, for a gain of more than 100 percent percent.

Not far behind is Racine-based Twin Disc Inc., which saw its shares rise from $35.50 on Dec. 31, 2006 to nearly $72 for a gain of nearly 100 percent. The company makes transmission equipment for construction machinery and the military. Its stock closed Monday at $70.77.

In third place is Bucyrus International, which has been doing gangbuster business selling heavy mining equipment abroad. The South Milwaukee company’s stock ended 2006 at $51.76 and closed Monday at $99.39.53 for a gain of nearly 97 percent.

Todd Parrish, a Baird analyst, said other companies, such Tomotherapy, Metavante and Orion also saw great gains. But they were not included in his list because they only went public in 2007 and did not have a 12-month track record.

Parrish said Twin Disc and Bucyrus are riding an international construction boom that has pushed the demand for heavy equipment.

Another big Wisconsin winner in that same category is the Manitowoc Co., which makes huge cranes. Its stock sold for $29.72 at the end of 2006 and closed at $48.83 Monday for a gain of nearly 68 percent.

Parrish said Third Wave, which makes molecular diagnostic tests, saw its stock rocket up because it settled a patent infringement suit with a rival this year and because its earnings improved.

“The market doesn’t favor small companies involved in patent issues because they divert their attention and resources,” he said. “But they do like it when those issues are resolved.”