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Can Manitowoc Maintain the Momentum?

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Once again, Manitowoc (NYSE: MTW  ) has kept its chin up in a tough economy. Even after posting outstanding fourth-quarter numbers, its two polar-opposite segments are still poised to continue to lift the company higher.

Craning forward
Manitowoc's performance in its core crane business has been extraordinary. In the fourth quarter, sales in the segment climbed a staggering 40% from the comparable period last year, representing the highest such year-over-year growth since 2007. Sales surged despite some supply constraints, and demand from the Americas was the primary growth driver, suggesting a strong recovery in the U.S. construction space.

The company also bagged new orders worth $676 million during the quarter, a level it last saw in 2008. This helped push its backlogs up by 33%. These numbers make the crane business look upbeat, and the company is making sure it doesn't miss out on the opportunity.

Manitowoc is set to become the first player to launch rough-terrain cranes in Brazil when its new manufacturing facility begins production by mid-2012. New product launches are also in the pipeline, and we can expect the 12 products launched last year to start contributing positively to the top line this year.

So the crane business looks good. But wait! What makes Manitowoc a unique play is the fact that it also makes equipment for the foodservice industry.

Impressive diversity
The foodservice equipment segment accounted for nearly 34% of Manitowoc's fourth-quarter top line. Product launches have been the way forward for Manitowoc, with offerings such as Merrychef ovens and Indigo ice machines, which were introduced last year, boosting revenues in the quarter.

Overall, the foodservice segment launched 50 new products in 2011, and has plans for more. It is developing its full line of blended beverage equipment, and will also open test kitchens in Singapore and India in a bid to strengthen its foothold in the rapidly growing Asia Pacific region. Manitowoc's customer list already boasts big names such as McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) and Yum! Brands. McDonald's has publicly acknowledged how Manitowoc's Frymaster line helped reduce its carbon footprint. Association with these food majors can help Manitowoc gain greater traction not just in the U.S. but also in the emerging markets where they are expanding big-time.

The Foolish bottom line
Manitowoc is balancing its strong performance with initiatives to reduce debt. Its growth plans look robust, and the emerging-market opportunity is big. In fact, the proportion of revenue Manitowoc is generating from Asian markets has doubled in the last five years.

I suggest keeping a tab on this equipment maker. To stay up to speed on the top news and analysis on Manitowoc, click here to add it to your stock watchlist.

Neha Chamaria does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Yum! Brands. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of McDonald's and Yum! Brands. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.           

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