It’s been a year of change at Thor Industries Inc. as the company has refocused its efforts on the RV business.
The South Bend (Ind.) Tribune reported that the company took another step in that direction last week by announcing that it had acquired the assets of Bison Coach, a specialty trailer manufacturer, from an operating unit of Navistar Inc. for about $16.7 million.
The latest purchase is part of a whirlwind year for the RV company. In the past year, the company also has moved its corporate headquarters to Elkhart from Jackson Center, Ohio, purchased Livin’ Lite RV, sold its bus business to Allied Specialty Vehicles for $100 million, sold most of the assets of its ambulance subsidiary SJC Industries to Wheeled Coach Industries Inc., a subsidiary of Allied Specialty Vehicles Inc., and purchased the former Navistar and Monaco Coach plant in Wakarusa.
“For us, we’ve really positioned the company to be primarily an RV company,” said Bob Martin, Thor Industries president and CEO, in a phone interview.
“Throughout the year we’ve moved away from ambulance and bus, and we’ve picked up Livin’ Lite, who’s a small RV manufacturer in Wakarusa,” said Martin, who became CEO in June when Peter Orthwein gave up the position to focus on serving as executive chairman of the board.
“We’ve purchased the Wakarusa production complex to manufacture motorhomes for Thor Motor Coach,” he continued. “That’s a part of the market we feel is coming back and that we’re doing very well in.”
Thor’s total Indiana employment is now about 7,600.
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Elkhart, Ind.-based Thor Industries Inc. today (Nov. 4) announced preliminary sales, as well as continued growth in the company’s backlog, for its fiscal 2014 first quarter, ended Oct. 31.
Preliminary consolidated sales from continuing operations in the first quarter were $802.6 million, up 5.4% from $761.4 million in the first quarter last year. Towable RV sales for the first quarter were $625.7 million, down 2.1% from $639.2 million in the first quarter of fiscal 2013. Motorized RV sales in the first quarter increased 44.8% to $176.9 million from $122.2 million in the same quarter a year ago.
Consolidated backlog on Oct. 31 was $733.2 million, representing a 41.9% increase from $516.7 million the previous year. Towable RV backlog increased 13.5% to $419.8 million compared to $369.9 million at the end of the first quarter of fiscal 2013. Motorized RV backlog more than doubled to $313.4 million from $146.8 million a year earlier.
“Thor achieved solid improvements in our preliminary sales for the first quarter of the fiscal year. Our towable sales were somewhat softer compared with the prior year, while our motorized sales posted very strong growth as that market continues to recover sharply,” said Bob Martin, Thor president and CEO. “While we have seen stability in the overall towable market, we took the opportunity to be disciplined in our towable business in an effort to better balance our production with industry demand, which should benefit Thor during the more seasonally slow fall and winter months.
“In motorized, we have begun production on our first line in Wakarusa and we expect to have the second line in operation during the fiscal second quarter, both of which will help support our overall growth. We expect to report our first-quarter operating results on Dec. 2.”
Thor Industries Inc. announced that, through a wholly-owned subsidiary, it has acquired the net assets of specialty trailer manufacturer Bison Coach from an operating unit of Navistar Inc. The purchase price, which will be paid in cash, is approximately $16.7 million, subject to post-closing adjustments.
“We are pleased to welcome Bison Coach to the Thor team. The addition of Bison adds depth in a new specialty market of equine trailers equipped with living quarters,” said Bob Martin, Thor president and CEO, in a press release. “We believe there are solid opportunities to leverage the design and distribution strengths of our core RV businesses to Bison’s existing products and markets, resulting in better growth in revenues and profitability. Bringing Thor’s strength in designing innovative living spaces in the RV business to Bison’s living quarters makes perfect sense and should help drive additional improvements in Bison’s products.”
Martin noted that given the close proximity of its operations and its similar heavy use of aluminum construction, Bison will be reporting to Scott Tuttle, president of Thor’s Livin’ Lite RV subsidiary.
Founded in 1984, Milford, Ind.-based Bison is known for its rugged, high-quality and affordable specialty trailers. In 2003, Bison began adding living quarter conversions to their production process resulting in the development of a complete line of equine trailers with living quarters.
Bison Coach is expected to generate sales of approximately $30 million for its fiscal year ending, Oct. 31, and Thor expects the acquisition to be accretive to earnings.
“We are excited to join the Thor family, the North American leader in RVs that can provide the resources we need to grow our business,” said Zac Binkley, president and general manager of Bison Coach. “We share many of the common traits of Thor, including strength in product innovation and a strong focus on product quality and customer service. Our combination should provide a great cultural fit and a strong partner to foster our continued growth.”
Thor expects Bison Coach will continue to operate out of its existing Milford facilities with minimal disruption to its current business resulting from the acquisition.
Thor Industries Inc. today (Oct.) announced the completion of the sale of its bus business to Allied Specialty Vehicles Inc. and the receipt of $100 million in cash proceeds from the transaction. The cash proceeds will be adjusted to reflect changes in net assets of the bus business since April 30 based on the final valuation of net assets as of October 20.
Thor also announced that its board approved the payment of a special dividend of $1 per common share. The special dividend is payable on November 19 to shareholders of record at the close of business on November 5.
“With the completion of the sale of the bus business, Thor is embarking on a new period in its history with a focus purely on the growth of the RV business,” said Peter B. Orthwein, Thor executive chairman. “While we will continue to use our cash to grow our core RV business and maintain and grow our regular dividend, the Board decided that the payment of a special dividend was in the best interest of our shareholders at this time. This marks the second year in a row that we have paid a special dividend and is another example of our priority in returning cash to our shareholders.”
Thor expects to report preliminary sales for its fiscal first quarter ended October 3 on Nov. 4.
Elkhart, Ind.-based Thor Industries, Inc. announced today (Oct. 4) that its Board of Directors approved, at their Oct. 4, 2013 meeting, an increase of the payment amount of Thor’s regular quarterly dividend to $0.23 per share from $0.18 per share, an increase of nearly 28%.
The regular dividend is payable on Oct. 28, 2013 to shareholders of record at the close of business on Oct. 18, 2013.
“Our Board’s decision to increase our regular quarterly dividend reflects our continuing pattern of returning cash to our shareholders and the confidence of our Board in the future performance of Thor,” said Peter B. Orthwein, Thor executive chairman. “Upon receipt of the anticipated proceeds from the sale of our bus businesses, which is expected to close by Nov. 1, we expect to have approximately $6 per share in total cash, which we will use according to our ongoing priorities to grow our operations, maintain and grow our regular dividend and fund special dividends or share repurchases as appropriate.”
Thor Industries Inc. Thursday (Sept. 26) reported a 19% gain in sales and a 31% increase in net income for its fiscal fourth quarter, ended July 31, buoyed by strong performance from its motorhome operations.
Highlights from the report include:
• Sales from continuing operations for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2013 were $914 million, up 19% from $769.9 million in the fourth quarter last year, based on continued strong growth in motorized recreational vehicle sales and more modest growth in towable RV sales.
• Net income from continuing operations for the fourth quarter was $55.2 million, up 35% from $40.9 million in the prior-year fourth quarter. Including the discontinued operations of Thor’s bus business, the pending sale of which was announced at the end of the fiscal year, net income for the fourth quarter was $58.2 million, up 31% from $44.4 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012.
• Diluted earnings per share (EPS) from continuing operations for the fourth quarter was $1.04, up 35% from 77 cents in the fourth quarter last year. Including the discontinued operations of Thor’s bus business, diluted EPS for the fourth quarter was $1.09, up 30% from 84 cents in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012.
• Sales from continuing operations for the fiscal year were $3.24 billion, up 23% from $2.64 billion in the prior year.
• Net income from continuing operations for the fiscal year was $151.7 million, up 36%, compared to $111.4 million in fiscal 2012. Including discontinued operations, net income for fiscal 2013 was $152.9 million, up 26% from $121.7 million in fiscal 2012.
• Diluted EPS from continuing operations for the fiscal year was $2.86, up 38% from $2.07 in the prior-year. Including discontinued operations, diluted EPS for the fiscal year was $2.88, up 27% from $2.26 in fiscal 2012.
“We are pleased to end fiscal 2013 on a positive note with continued momentum in sales and earnings,” said Bob Martin, Thor president and CEO. “The recent actions we’ve taken to divest non-core businesses and expand our RV business through acquisition leave us optimistic about the future of Thor. At the recently completed Open House in Elkhart, we were able to showcase a number of new products from all of our RV subsidiaries as well as new products from our recently acquired Livin’ Lite subsidiary, reinforcing our leadership in innovation in the RV industry.”
Segment highlights included:
• Towable RV sales were $745.8 million for the fourth quarter, up 13% from $662.1 million in the prior year period. Income before tax was $76.4 million, up 41% from $54.2 million in the fourth quarter last year, primarily as a result of higher sales volumes and ongoing efforts to improve operating efficiencies.
• Motorized RV sales were $168.2 million for the fourth quarter, up 56% from $107.8 million in the prior year fourth quarter. Income before tax was $13.5 million, up 85% from $7.3 million last year, which was driven primarily by improved product mix and increased sales volumes.
• For the full year, towable RV sales were $2.65 billion, up 16% from $2.29 billion in the prior year period. Income before tax was $205.7 million, up 29% from $159.0 million in fiscal 2012.
• Full year motorized RV sales were $591.5 million, up 67% from $353.9 million in the prior year. Income before tax was $43.9 million, up 137% from $18.5 million last year.
“Our results for the fourth quarter reflect positive outlooks on the part of dealers and consumers about our industry that form a solid foundation for Thor in the new fiscal year,” said Peter B. Orthwein, Thor executive chairman. “On this foundation, we will continue to build our business, through new product innovation, improved operating performance and opportunistic additions to our core RV business. We are focused on generating growth in sales and earnings over the coming fiscal year and believe the current industry conditions will support our efforts.”
The recession wasn’t much fun for leisure companies serving cash-starved consumers. According to AOL Money, companies like RV manufacturer Thor Industries Inc. had to make do with more than a 50% drop in demand in 2009. The combination of near-retirees working longer and existing retirees ratcheting belts knocked industrywide RV shipments from a peak of 385,000 RVs in 2005 to just 165,000 in 2009.
Lucky for Thor, retirees are feeling more financially fit thanks to a 176% increase in the stock market since March, 2009. As a result of rising confidence, the appetite for the home-away-from-home industry is marching back. July marked the 19th straight month of year-over-year growth for industry RV shipments, with 15% more RV’s being shipped from makers to dealers than a year ago.
July’s improvement brought year-to-date shipments to 201,000 units, up 13% versus 2012. And, that has industry watchers estimating total shipments will eclipse 300,000 this year for the first time since 2007.
So far, this year, the priciest are the best sellers. Sales of motorhomes, which cost more than towables, have climbed 35% year to date through July. Sales of Class A motorhomes, like those sold by Thor’s Motor Coach brand — the largest brand of Class A RVs with 21.9% market share — are up 30% this year.
The more cost conscious towable RVs are selling more quickly too, growing 13.1% to 201,000 units.
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Sales of recreational vehicles are up. As reported by Investors Business Daily (IBD), RV shipments for the year through July improved 13% from the same period last year, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
The industry continues to recover from the Great Recession, having suffered some of the same meltdown as the housing market. Motorhomes are considered second homes for tax purposes, and many buyers take out mortgages.
So with growth returning and earnings rising, it’s no surprise that the Building-Mobile/Manufactured Home industry group is ranked 19th out of 197 industry groups tracked by IBD. It has seven members, but only three have significant ratings.
• Thor Industries (THO) is the No. 1 company in the business, with a composite rating of 96. It makes RVs under the Airstream and other brand names. It has an EPS rating of 96. Earnings grew 24% in the April-ended quarter, and analysts are forecasting a 13% increase in the next report. They’re expecting a 26% growth rate for the full year and a 17% increase next year.
The stock has recently carved out a flat base that has corrected 12%. All the companies in the group are thinly traded. Thor is the most active, trading 362,000 shares a day.
• Winnebago Industries (WGO) is the second-strongest stock in the group, with a composite rating of 95. It lost money in 2008 and 2009, but is recovering. Earnings last quarter rose 108% and are expected to rise 93% to 27 cents a share in the current August-ended quarter. It also is building the right side of a base. The stock’s average daily volume is 229,000 shares.
• A third company in the group, Drew Industries (DW), has strong earnings growth over the past three years. It trades a mere 89,000 shares a day. Drew is parent to suppliers Lippert Components Inc. and Kinro Inc.
Thor Industries Inc.’s senior managers were issuing upbeat reports on Friday (Sept. 20) regarding the 2013 Elkhart Open House, which closed out Thursday amid heavy rains that apparently didn’t succeed in dampening the industry’s growing appreciation for this dynamic northern Indiana trade show at which an array of U.S. manufacturers set up shop for a few days to meet and greet an impressive influx of U.S. and Canadian dealers.
“Overall, it all went very well,” Thor President and CEO Bob Martin told RVBUSINESS.com, noting that Thor’s display this year featured more than 300 units representing all of its varied divisions. “Dealers were incredibly optimistic as they look at this year coming up, and very enthused with virtually all of the Thor brands coming into the show with all-new product lines.”
Martin said that Thor Motor Coach’s introduction of its Axis and Vegas motorhomes represented one of the highlights for the Elkhart, Ind.-based company. “Dealers seemed very intrigued by what was truly almost a new category – a new twist – in the Class A market. It offers a new size, new price points and new chassis,” Martin said, adding, “I’m definitely seeing the motorized category starting to get legs and come back stronger every month.”
Martin confirmed that despite the rain on Thursday, dealers still turned out to investigate – and buy – product.
“Dealer traffic was very strong on Tuesday and Wednesday,” he said. “Thursday, we had some rain, but just as dealers see on their retail lots, qualified buyers were out there to look at product and, you know, kind of plan their year. So, we still had some action on a rainy day. But, overall, we were very happy with the increased attendance on Tuesday and Wednesday — Thursday fell off a bit – and our big Wednesday casino night was very well attended.
“And once again, dealers loved the atmosphere of the Open House. They appreciate it and enjoyed it and thanked all of us for putting it on and just bringing everybody together.”
Martin, like most others consulted late this week, considered the 2013 Open House another step forward for the wildcat trade show, now in its fifth year, and a good signal for the future in an industry that now seems to have settled on two key sales-oriented conventions – the Open House and the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) National RV Trade Show, this year’s rendition of which is slated for Dec. 1-3 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville.
“Yeah, I mean truly, dealers really seem to enjoy the (Open House) venue,” added Martin. “It’s laid back. Dealers are able to break bread and have a cocktail with other dealers and the manufacturers. They just enjoy the laid-back feel that we have here with the campground setting we created in our display. And our display keeps getting a little bit larger every year – a few more units added every year and dealers like the opportunity to see more floorplans, more decors, just overall more units. As I’ve said, we’re going to continue to do what the dealers want, but they truly seem to enjoy this event.”
Martin said Thor is still very much focused on Louisville. “Definitely,” said Martin. “Louisville’s still an important show for us and, you know, we always hold a few surprises for Louisville and encourage everybody to come. It’s another opportunity for us to spend time with the dealers and be under one roof and it’s a good venue for dealers to go competitive shop. So, after many of us head to RVDA for a few weeks and then right after that down to Louisville, it’s a pretty quick turnaround. But we’re prepared, and this year we have all the Thor companies at one nice location in the South Wing (of the Kentucky Exposition Center). So, we’re excited about having everybody there together for the first time.”
Over at Thor Motor Coach, Vice President of Sales & Marketing Dana Simon was reviewing what for Thor’s motorized subsidiary was a solid Open House performance across the board. “Very successful, a very good show,” said Simon on Friday morning. “Our product was received really well – from our Class C’s to our diesel pushers. And, of course, our results on the Axis and the Vegas were incredible.”
Indeed, Simon noted, the Axis/Vegas certainly had the buzz this year as far as new 2014 Open House products on display because of the perception among many attendees that this newly termed “Recreational Utility Vehicle” (RUV) – a short, 24-foot Class A on a 12,500-pound GVWR, Ford E-Series strip chassis powered by a V-10 Triton engine retailing for as little as $69,999 – could be a real game changer for the motorized marketplace.
“The driveability of this new coach is better than any motorhome I’ve ever driven,” said Simon.
Matt Zimmerman, president of Keystone RV Co. and Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc., issued a similar upbeat report on behalf of his division(s), Thor’s largest.
“It went fantastic,” said Zimmerman. “I think it exceeded our expectations in every way. We don’t only measure a show’s success strictly on the orders received – and the orders were nothing short of phenomenal for us not only on the Keystone side of the fence but also the Dutchmen organization. But we also measure it on just the overall attitude of the dealer body towards our great company and our product and our people. And all three of those categories were very solid this week. Attendance was great. The display’s never looked better, and at the end of the day the results far exceeded our expectations and, in terms of sales, represented an increase over last year.”
“It was absolutely a great show,” added Dutchmen Executive Vice President Aram Koltookian. “We were a little bit ahead of last year, as far as total sales, and the dealers seemed real receptive to the change over the past year at Dutchmen. They understand all the new processes and the construction going on, and a lot of dealers decided to stick with the Dutchmen brand and our company. And we signed a lot of new dealers.”
Robert W. Baird & Co. met with Thor Industries Inc. management and dealers during this week’s Elkhart County RV Open House. The following offers excerpts from Baird’s note to investors.
Notes from Elkhart show. We met with management and dealers at the dealer open house in Elkhart, Ind. The meetings showcased important extensions to the product portfolio. Dealers showed substantial interest in a new Class A product. Dealer inventory remains lean (motorhomes) to balanced (towables), according to our checks.
New products and positioning. Thor introduced a host of new products, most notably the new Vegas and Axis Class A models. Class A chassis have been in limited supply, with most manufacturers on allocation through early next year. To work around the supply constraint, and meet an attractive low price point near $70,000, Thor is building these new Class A models on Class C chassis – an apparent first in the industry.
Dealer inventory lean to balanced. Management characterized dealer inventory as lean to balanced, according to Thor – largely consistent with our checks. Expect strong motorhome backlogs as Thor and other manufacturers struggle to keep pace with demand while chassis supply remains limited.
Less discounting than last year. Promotional activity has become the norm in the RV industry, especially in towables, but Thor is discounting less than it did last year. Management indicated the pricing environment has improved substantially versus last year, likely the result of better management incentives and improved discipline under the leadership of new CEO Bob Martin.
Expanding into new markets. We gained a better appreciation for the upside associated with the recent Livin’ Lite RV LLC acquisition. The brand allows Thor to enter two new markets:
• Camping trailers: Thor will enter the high-end portion of the camping trailer segment, a market Thor had not addressed in the past.
• China: Thor is exporting American-made Livin’ Lite RVs to China – a remarkable development. Volume is small, but the opportunity holds promise as the Chinese middle class expands.