The Toro Company (NYSE: TTC) reported net earnings of $267.7 million, or $2.41 per share, on a net sales increase of 4.7 percent to $2.505 billion for its fiscal year ended October 31, 2017. In fiscal 2016, the company delivered net earnings of $231.0 million, or $2.06 per share for the year, on net sales of $2.392 billion.
For the fourth quarter, Toro reported net earnings of $33.8 million or $0.31 per share, on a net sales increase of 4.3 percent to $488.6 million. In the comparable 2016 period, the company posted net earnings of $30.2 million on net sales of $468.4 million.
The company also announced that its board of directors has declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.20 per share, a 14.3 percent increase from its previous quarterly dividend rate of $0.175 per share. This dividend is payable on January 10, 2018, to shareholders of record on December 22, 2017. For the fiscal year, the company returned nearly $236.0 million to shareholders through the payment of approximately $75.8 million in dividends and the repurchase of approximately 2.7 million shares of common stock.
“Fiscal 2017 was another record year for The Toro Company. We experienced solid sales growth fueled by new and innovative product offerings across our businesses,” said Richard M. Olson, Toro’s chairman and chief executive officer. “Strong performance in our golf, landscape contractor and rental businesses continued with the success of new products such as the Exmark Radius zero-turn riding mowers, the Greensmaster series of greens mowers and the Dingo TX 1000 compact utility loader. We continue to gain momentum in those markets and we are encouraged by retail trends. Our BOSS snow and ice management business also had a strong year driven by the continued success of the EXT extendable plows and the V-Box spreaders, which elevate performance and enhance productivity.”
“Sales in our international business were up 5.6 percent for the year driven by our Australia-based Pope residential product offerings and by the newly acquired Perrot line of professional irrigation products. We are pleased with the integration of Perrot and we are optimistic about the growth opportunity for that business as we expand distribution more broadly. Balanced performance across our professional turf product categories also bolstered international sales.”
“For the fourth quarter, our residential business generated solid growth with sales up 3.2 percent driven in part by the success of our Pope line and increased shipments of zero-turn riding mowers. Turning to our snow business, field inventory levels are in good shape and we are well prepared to address customers’ needs in the winter months ahead.”
“Fiscal 2017 marks the end of our three-year Destination PRIME initiative. I am proud of our team’s accomplishments. We achieved record revenue, exceeded profitability goals and made significant progress on improving working capital. With the launch of our new initiative, Vision 2020, we will once again focus on driving profitable growth with an emphasis on innovation and serving our customers, which will generate further momentum for the organization. It is the collective efforts of our employees that make these initiatives a success. I look forward to working together as we kickoff the next chapter.”
For fiscal 2018, the company expects revenue growth to exceed 4 percent, and net earnings to be about $2.57 to $2.63 per share. For the first quarter, the company expects net earnings to be about $0.42 to $0.44 per share.
- Professional segment net sales for fiscal 2017 totaled $1.812 billion, up 6.2 percent from $1.705 billion last year. Strong performance across our professional businesses drove the positive results for the year. Solid demand for our Toro and Exmark branded landscape contractor equipment, golf, rental and specialty construction and our BOSS product line-ups were all contributing factors. For the fourth quarter, professional segment net sales were $360.4 million, up 4.9 percent from the comparable fiscal 2016 period. The growth was driven largely by the success of newly introduced products in our landscape contractor businesses and higher sales in our golf and specialty construction markets.
- Professional segment earnings for fiscal 2017 totaled $379.5 million, up 7.8 percent from $352.1 million from the prior year. For the fourth quarter, professional segment earnings were $65.0 million, up from $59.7 million in the comparable fiscal 2016 period.
- Residential segment net sales for fiscal 2017 were $673.2 million, up 0.6 percent from $669.1 million last year. Despite mild in-season winter conditions and an inconsistent start to the spring months, increased sales of our Pope products and higher shipments of snow products, contributed to the favorable full year results. For the fourth quarter, residential segment net sales were $122.6 million, up 3.2 percent from the comparable fiscal 2016 period. Momentum in our international business drove the performance for the quarter with increased sales of our Pope product line in Australia.
- Residential segment earnings for fiscal 2017 totaled $74.7 million, up 1.4 percent from fiscal 2016. For the fourth quarter, residential segment earnings were $11.7 million, up from $9.2 million in the comparable fiscal 2016 period.
Gross margin as a percent of sales for fiscal 2017 was up 20 basis points from last year to 36.8 percent. Margin improvement for the year was driven by favorable operational productivity and segment mix, partially offset by commodity headwinds and increased freight costs. For the fourth quarter, gross margin as a percent of sales increased 90 basis points to 37.7 percent. Margin improvement for the quarter was driven by favorable operational productivity and foreign currency exchange rates, partially offset by higher commodity costs.
Selling, general and administrative (SG&A) expense as a percent of sales for fiscal 2017 was 22.6 percent, consistent with last year. For the fourth quarter, SG&A expense as a percent of sales increased 50 basis points to 28.0 percent. The quarterly increase was mainly driven by higher incentive program expenses.
Operating earnings as a percent of sales for fiscal 2017 improved 20 basis points from last year to 14.2 percent. For the fourth quarter, operating earnings improved 40 basis points to 9.7 percent of sales.
The effective tax rate for fiscal 2017 was 24.2 percent, compared to 30.1 percent last year. The effective tax rate for the fourth quarter was 27.9 percent compared to 27.6 percent in the prior year. The change in the tax rate for the full year was mainly driven by adoption of the new share based accounting standard this fiscal year.
Accounts receivable at the end of fiscal 2017 totaled $183.1 million, up 12.1 percent from last year. Net inventories were $329.0 million, up 7.2 percent compared to the prior year. Trade payables were $211.8 million, up 21.2 percent from the prior year.