Local stocks off to strong start in 2014

Most of the publicly traded companies headquartered in southeastern Wisconsin are off to a strong start in 2014.

A BizTimes analysis of the 37 publicly traded companies with headquarters here revealed that 25 of them reported gains in revenues and net earnings in the first quarter of the calendar year, compared with the same period a year earlier.

Those robust balance sheets also explain why many of the local stocks are trading at or near 52-week highs in the early going of the year.

A quick sampling of the quarterly reports finds many CEOs using words such as “strong,” “robust” and “solid” to describe their companies’ performances across diverse industries in the first quarter:

  • Milwaukee-based A.O. Smith Corp. 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. A.O. Smith CEO Ajita Rajendra said, “Our business in China got off to a strong start this year, with sales growing 25 percent over the same period last year. The team in China has excelled at innovating, manufacturing and marketing products with features and benefits that meet consumers’ needs in that region.”
  • Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Inc. reported first quarter net income of $265.9 million, or $1.21 per share, up from $224.1 million, or 99 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2013. “Harley-Davidson delivered gains on many fronts in the first quarter, with shipments up 7.3 percent, strong margin improvement and solid growth in dealer new motorcycle sales,” said Harley CEO Keith Wandell.
  • Brown Deer-based Bank Mutual Corp. reported first quarter net income of $2.8 million, or 6 cents per share, up 11.7 percent from $2.5 million, or 5 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2013. Bank Mutual CEO David Baumgarten said, “Our net interest margin improved for the seventh straight quarter due to continued improvements in our earning asset and funding mixes.”
  • Milwaukee-based global staffing firm ManpowerGroup reported first quarter net earnings of $70.1 million, or 86 cents per share, up 193 percent from $23.9 million, or 31 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2013. Revenue was $4.9 billion, up 3 percent from $4.7 million a year prior. ManpowerGroup CEO Jeffrey Joerres said, “Despite the slow start in January, we are experiencing more positive revenue trends as we enter the second quarter in almost all of the major geographies.”
  • Brown Deer-based Badger Meter Inc. reported first quarter net income of $4.6 million, or 32 cents per share, up 59.3 percent from $2.9 million, or 20 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2013. Revenue was a record $83.4 million, up 16.3 percent from $71.8 million in the same period a year ago. Badger Meter CEO Rich Meeusen said, “We are pleased with the first quarter results, especially the first quarter record sales, compared to last year’s unusually weak first quarter. The sales increase was across the board, with higher sales of both residential and commercial municipal water products and flow instrumentation products.”
  • Glendale-based Johnson Controls Inc. reported second quarter net income of $291 million, or 39 cents per share, up significantly from $193 million, or 24 cents per share, in the second quarter of 2013. Revenue was $10.4 billion, up 4 percent from $10.1 billion in the same period a year ago. Johnson Controls CEO Alex Molinaroli said, “While the economic environment continues to challenge top line growth in some of our businesses, I am pleased with the profitability improvements in all businesses.”

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