First quarter results a mixed bag for Milwaukee area manufacturers

Some report big increases over Q1 2009, others report continued struggles

Some Milwaukee area manufacturing companies had a sluggish performance in the first quarter, but others showed signs of a strong rebound from the Great Recession, according to the first quarter results of publicly traded firms in the area.

Glendale-based Johnson Controls Inc. had double digit sales increases and higher profitability for its second quarter of 2010, leading the company to boost its earnings estimate for the year. The company’s fiscal net income for the second quarter rose to $274 million, or 40 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $193 million, or 33 cents per share, in the same period a year ago. Its quarterly net sales grew to $8.3 billion from $6.3 billion a year earlier.

“Our automotive and power solutions businesses are executing very well on the higher production levels in North America and Europe,” said Stephen Roell, Johnson Controls chairman and chief executive officer. “Globally, our markets are improving, and each of the businesses generated significant margin improvements through our focus on cost and quality.”

Brown Deer-based Badger Meter Inc. saw its quarterly net earnings fall to $5.4 million from $7.0 million in the same period a year ago, and its sales drop to $61.8 million from $65.3 million a year earlier. However, the company saw improvement at the end of the quarter that it expects to carry into the second quarter.

"Orders increased significantly in March. The allocation of stimulus funds by each state in mid-February was followed by a sharp up-tick in orders and shipments. These higher order and sales levels have continued into the second quarter," said Richard Meeusen, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Badger Meter.

Milwaukee-based A.O. Smith Corp.’s first quarter earnings were $30.9 million, up from $2.7 million in the same period a year ago. The company’s quarterly sales grew 8.7 percent to $523.4 million from $481.6 million a year earlier.

"The economic recovery in China and new product introductions have helped stimulate water heater sales in that important market," said A.O. Smith chairman and chief executive officer Paul Jones. "In addition, many customers in our global motor markets began to replenish inventories in the first quarter which positively impacted motor sales. “Although there are a number of reasons to be cautious, including the health of the domestic residential and commercial construction markets and the seemingly relentless march upward in raw material costs, we are confident we can manage through these challenges and achieve our profit goals for the year."

Kenosha-based Snap-on Inc. also posted strong first quarter earnings of $36.8 million, up from $34.8 million for the first quarter of 2009. Its quarterly net sales grew to $621.6 million from $572.6 million a year earlier.

Wauwatosa-based Briggs & Stratton Corp.’s income for the third quarter of fiscal 2010 was $24.1 million, down from $25.4 million in 2009, although quarterly net sales grew to $694.6 million from $673.8 million. The firm’s quarter was affected by a $30.6 million litigation settlement related to a class action lawsuit regarding horsepower labeling.

The company now projects that fiscal 2010 net income will be in the range of $24 million to $31 million.

Although its sales have continued to slump, Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Inc. returned to profitability in the first quarter, with net income of $33.3 million. The company’s quarterly net revenue slipped to $1 billion from $1.3 billion in the same period a year ago.

Worldwide retail sales of new Harley-Davidson motorcycles declined 18.2 percent in the quarter compared with the first quarter of 2009. In the United States, retail Harley-Davidson motorcycle sales were down 24.3 percent.

“We believe conditions will remain challenging throughout this year, and we will continue to factor that into how we manage the business,” said Keith Wandell, Harley’s president and CEO. “Our entire team is moving with great purpose and speed as we implement our go-forward business strategy. We also continue to be intensely focused on continuous improvement, looking at all opportunities to drive cost-competitiveness and efficiency throughout our operations.”

South Milwaukee-based Bucyrus International Inc. reported lowered first quarter net earnings of $35.0 million, down from $56.9 million in 2009. The company’s quarterly sales increased to $607.5 million from $605.7 million a year earlier.

On Feb.19, Bucyrus completed its previously announced acquisition of Terex Corp.’s mining equipment business for $1 billion in cash and 5.8 million shares of Bucyrus’ common stock. At the time, the company said it could add 300 to 500 new jobs in metro Milwaukee because of the acquisition.

“We’re projecting to exceed that,” a Bucyrus spokesperson said. “We’re still working through synergies with Terex and where the people and jobs will be.”


Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display