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Acquisitions Push Thor Industries Higher

By Dan Caplinger – Updated Jun 5, 2017 at 7:36PM

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The RV specialist keeps reaching unprecedented heights.

The recreational vehicle industry has been an unexpected hotbed of growth lately, and although it hardly has a household name, Thor Industries (THO 2.47%) has made a huge splash in the space. With its purchase of Jayco last year, Thor showed its commitment to growth by any means possible, and so far, the strategy has been working out effectively for the RV specialist.

Coming into Monday's fiscal third-quarter financial report, Thor investors fully expected that Jayco would boost the company's prospects going forward. Yet even the most optimistic of investors were generally pleased with the numbers that the company produced. Let's look more closely at Thor Industries and what its results say about its future.

Person lying on couch in RV.

Image source: Thor Industries.

Thor reaches new records

Thor Industries' fiscal third-quarter results only continued the huge gains that the RV company has managed to produce recently. Sales soared 57% to $2.02 billion, reaching a new milestone and topping even the ambitious 51% growth rate that most investors were expecting to see. Net income climbed by more than two-fifths to $111.3 million, and that produced earnings of $2.11 per share, which was considerably ahead of the $1.88-per-share consensus forecast among those following the stock.

Looking more closely at Thor's results, Jayco continued to contribute a sizable portion of the growth that the overall company enjoyed. In the fiscal third quarter, Jayco's sales were about $516.5 million, and that amounted to 40 percentage points worth of Thor's overall growth. Nevertheless, that still signaled solid organic growth from the rest of Thor's business, and Jayco's contribution itself was up nicely on a sequential basis compared to the fiscal second quarter.

The various segments of Thor's business showed good conditions throughout. Towable RV sales were up by more than half from the prior-year period, with organic growth of nearly 14% as consumers continued to focus on the more affordable portion of the travel trailer space. Pretax income from the division rose by 39%, and backlogs more than doubled to $1.56 billion. Meanwhile, on the motorized RV front, sales climbed almost 80%, with moderately priced Class A and Class C motorhomes leading the way higher. Pretax income jumped by more than half, and backlogs soared by more than 140% to nearly $800 million.

Thor CEO Bob Martin praised his employees for the strong results. "We continue to see strength in the RV market," Martin said, "as dealers and consumers remain optimistic and the prospects for continued industry growth remain strong." He noted how demographics are helping to foster demand, and Thor is working hard to capture as much of those favorable trends as it can.

What's ahead for Thor Industries?

What Thor hopes is that even though it's enjoying a big boom in demand, the influx of customers will lead to even larger long-term benefits. As Martin put it, "Over time, we anticipate this short-term trend will translate into longer term demand for higher priced units, as customers adopt the RV lifestyle and eventually trade up from entry-level units to mid-level and even high-end units."

There are some signs, however, that demand could start to introduce some pressure on Thor. It said that the boom in production capacity has tightened the labor market in the northern part of Indiana. That could create problems, but the company has had some foresight in coming up with initiatives to reduce any adverse impact from those labor conditions.

That isn't stopping Thor from being optimistic about the future. For the rest of fiscal 2017, it expects double-digit growth in revenue and earnings during the fiscal fourth quarter, although it reminded investors that the company will finally lap the Jayco acquisition and therefore see a slowdown in growth rates compared to recent quarters. With no apparent signs of a slowdown, Thor is focusing on the highest-growth potential, but it's also continuing to look strategically for potential acquisitions if they would fit its needs.

Thor investors celebrated the news, and the stock jumped 9% in after-hours trading following the announcement. As long as the RV market keeps moving forward so aggressively, Thor should be able to use its leadership position to claim at least its fair share of industry growth in the future.

Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Thor Industries. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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