Manufacturers shine on stock market

Just as manufacturing proved to be a strong component of south eastern Wisconsin’s economic recovery in 2012, the stock shares of several manufacturers were among the brightest local performers in the past year.

Six of the 10 best-performing stocks of publicly traded companies headquartered in southeastern Wisconsin in 2012 belonged to manufacturing companies.

The best local manufacturing stocks of the past year included: Badger Meter Inc. (up 61.1 percent); A.O. Smith Corp. (up 57.2 percent); Snap-on Inc. (up 56.0 percent); Briggs & Stratton Corp. (up 36.1 percent); Johnson Outdoors Inc. (up 29.8 percent); and Strattec Security Corp. (up 29.4 percent).

The top manufacturing stocks thrive in a diverse set of industries.

Badger Meter chief executive officer Richard Meeusen is the driving force behind the Milwaukee Water Council. The company’s stock opened 2012 at $29.43 per share and closed the year at $47.41.

Badger Meter’s net sales were $245.3 million for the first three quarters of 2012, a 21.3-percent increase from sales of $202.2 million for the same period in 2011.

The company grew by acquiring Racine Federated Inc. last January, along with higher sales of the firm’s municipal water products, Meeusen said.

“Badger Meter remains financially strong. Our debt to total capitalization ratio was slightly below 30 percent at the end of the third quarter, even with the purchase of Racine Federated early in the year. We completed a $30 million stock buyback program last quarter and increased our quarterly common stock dividend by 6.25 percent to 17 cents per share in August. Our strong cash flow and balance sheet enable us to return capital to shareholders as well as continue to invest in new product development and marketing initiatives,” Meeusen said. “Long-term, we remain optimistic about the future of Badger Meter and the fundamentals of the water industry.”

The top performing southeastern Wisconsin stock for 2012 belonged to Waterstone Financial Inc., the Wauwatosa-based parent company of WaterStone Bank. The company’s stock price grew 312.7 percent per share in 2012, rising from $1.89 to $7.80.

A three-year old consent order between WaterStone Bank and regulators was terminated in December after the financial institution satisfied requirements to return to profitability.

The consent order with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) and the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions from November 2009 was issued as a result of significant loan losses incurred in 2008 and 2009.

Doug Gordon, president and chief executive officer for WaterStone Bank, attributed the successful satisfaction of the consent order requirements to the employees of the bank and its subsidiary, Waterstone Mortgage Corp.

“Our teams have worked diligently to improve operations and return to profitability,” Gordon said. “It is their hard work and dedication that will now allow WaterStone to continue with its plans for future growth.”

WaterStone Bank reported net income for the nine months ended Sept. 30 totaling $16.4 million, compared with losses of $2.9 million and $2.1 million for the nine months ended Sept. 30, 2011, and 2010, respectively.

WaterStone Bank has branch offices in Wauwatosa, Franklin/Hales Corners, Germantown/Menomonee Falls, Oak Creek, Oconomowoc/Lake Country, Pewaukee, Waukesha/Brookfield and West Allis.

The other stocks in the local top 10 list for 2012 were: Quad/Graphics Inc. (up 42.2 percent); Bank Mutual Corp. (up 35.2 percent); and Fiserv Inc. (up 34.5 percent).

The five worst-performing southeastern Wisconsin stocks of 2012 were: ZBB Energy Corp. (down 53.5 percent); Twin Disc Inc. (down 52.0 percent); Merge Technologies Inc. (down 49.1 percent; Orion Energy Systems Inc. (down 43.7 percent); and Assisted Living Concepts Inc. (down 34.5 percent).

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