The Manitowoc Co. returns to profitability after ‘year of transition’

Strong fourth quarter cuts into revenue decline

One of Milwaukee’s newest corporate residents returned to profitability in 2017 during what The Manitowoc Co. president and chief executive Barry Pennypacker called “a year of transition.”

The Manitowoc Co., which designs and makes mobile telescopic, tower and lattice-boom crawler cranes and boom trucks, reported net income of $9.4 million in 2017 after posting a $375.8 million loss in 2016. The improvement came despite a 2 percent drop in revenue for the year to $1.58 billion.

Revenue in the fourth quarter increased 27 percent to $481.5 million and net income improved from a $33.4 million loss in 2016 to $35.3 million in profit. Manitowoc also saw a 78 percent increase in orders during the fourth quarter, “primarily driven by increasing customer sentiment in the North American market, coupled with continued market share gains in our key areas of focus,” Pennypacker said.

The company announced in January it would be moving its headquarters to a 16,000-square-foot space at the One Park Plaza office building on Milwaukee’s far northwest side. Less than 50 positions will move from Manitowoc to Milwaukee and the company will continue to have some engineering and corporate functions in Manitowoc.

Manitowoc closed its manufacturing operations in Manitowoc in 2016, eliminating 528 positions as work moved to Shady Grove, Pennsylvania.

Pennypacker said, despite the closure of the Manitowoc operations, the Shady Grove plant remains below 50 percent capacity and utilization would need to go well above current levels for the company’s results to improve more.

“Well above where it is today is still not near peak levels,” he said.

Even with the strong fourth quarter and increase in orders, the company declined to provide revenue guidance for the year.

“We remain cautions on our outlook for a broad-based recovery in the crane market as it is yet to be seen if this inflection is sustainable,” Pennypacker said.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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