Why Mr. Market Dumped Manitowoc Company Inc. Stock Today

Manitowoc shares crashed 10% today on a bad earnings report; but was it really that bad?

May 2, 2014 at 4:03PM

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Brakes failed on Manitowoc (NYSE:MTW) shares today as they slumped 10% in trading following a dismal set of first-quarter numbers from the crane maker. I don't blame Mr. Market for dumping Manitowoc shares -- I was expecting much more from the company, too.

So what: Who would've expected Manitowoc's Q1 crane sales to slump 14% year over year after Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) reported a solid 20% jump in its first-quarter construction-equipment sales? Manitowoc blamed lower backlog (orders to be filled) and some customer-specific project delays for lower sales. I went back to check, and saw that Manitowoc had ended the fourth quarter with 24% lower (sequential) backlog value. But there's not much clarity about the customer delay.

Manitowoc's foodservice equipment segment saved the day, reporting 9% higher sales year over year. While the company's crane operating margin slipped one-and-a-half percentage points, to 4.8%, operating margin for its foodservice equipment business climbed to 17.9% from 15.1% a year ago.

Manitowoc's overall sales fell 5% year over year, but what really bewildered investors was its bottom line: The company swung to a loss of $8.8 million from a profit of $10.4 million a year ago. But let's be fair -- one-time items cost Manitowoc heavily during the quarter, the most important being a loss of $14.2 million incurred on exiting one of its joint ventures in China. Adjusting for those items, the company's earnings jumped 62% year over year.

Now what: Investors had high expectations from Manitowoc, especially after Caterpillar's surprise quarter. Manitowoc also left its full-year guidance unchanged -- unlike Caterpillar, which improved its revenue projections for the construction-equipment business substantially.

All is not lost, though. Manitowoc's Q1 crane segment backlog value jumped 47% sequentially, indicating greater potential revenue going forward. Also, its new order value climbed 29% year over year, thanks largely to the ConExpo exhibition held in March. I don't see a reason why the company's top line shouldn't improve going forward. Of course, customer-related delays remain a question mark.

Also, the strong performance at Manitowoc's foodservice equipment business is encouraging. The business is finally looking up, which is good news for the company.

Most importantly, Manitowoc reaffirmed its full-year guidance despite the bad quarter. So things could perhaps get better from here, and this could have just been one of those unconventional quarters that leave investors jittery.

I think a part of today's crash may have had to do with some profit booking -- Manitowoc stock was hovering around its 52-week high, and trading at a premium to peer stocks. Do you see an opportunity here?

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Neha Chamaria has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 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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