Milwaukee-based A.O. Smith Corp. today reported first quarter net earnings of $46.7 million, or 51 cents per share, up from $39 million, or 42 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2013.
Net sales were a record $552.2 million, up from $509.6 million a year ago.
The global water technology manufacturer attributed the increase to higher sales in China.
“Our business in China got off to a strong start this year, with sales growing 25 percent over the same period last year,” said Ajita Rajendra, chairman and chief executive officer. “The team in China has excelled at innovating, manufacturing and marketing products with features and benefits that meet consumers’ needs in that region.”
A.O. Smith repurchased about 446,000 shares of common stock during the quarter for $21.3 million. About 707,000 shares remain of the existing discretionary authority at quarter’s end. The board approved adding another 1.5 million shares to the repurchase authority after the end of the quarter.
“We remain committed to growing our business organically as well as with acquisitions, and our pipeline of potential investments is active,” Rajendra said. “However, we will remain selective and only make acquisitions that we believe will add long-term value for shareholders. In addition, the 25 percent increase in our quarterly dividend rate in February and the incremental share repurchase authority demonstrate our commitment to return cash to shareholders.”