What happened

Shares of Briggs & Stratton (NYSE:BGG) are rising today, up 14.1% as of 2:30 p.m. EDT despite the engine maker reporting a pretty sizable loss in its fiscal first quarter 2020.  

The reason: Though the small-cap company did lose money, Briggs & Stratton beat estimates.

Heading into earnings, analysts had predicted Briggs & Stratton would lose a whopping $0.72 per share (pro forma) on revenue of only $291.1 million. As it turned out, sales easily eclipsed that goal, coming in at $313 million, and the loss wasn't as big as feared, either -- only $0.67 per share.  

Rising orange and blue stock chart

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Granted, that was only the pro forma number. When calculated according to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), Briggs & Stratton's net loss was actually much bigger -- $0.81 per share. And even giving the company credit for much of its loss coming from what it says were one-time items, the pro forma loss still widened year over year.

But a beat is a beat, and investors are giving Briggs & Stratton credit for not doing quite as lousily as analysts had expected it would.

Now what

With Briggs & Stratton now making "meaningful progress" on its "key focus areas to drive better overall business performance," CEO Todd Teske is promising to deliver sales between $1.91 billion and $1.97 billion through the end of this fiscal year, and to earn pro forma profits of $0.20 to $0.40 per diluted share.

No word on what the GAAP number will be, but if Briggs & Stratton hits those pro forma marks, it could end up exceeding analyst expectations all year long. At last report, Wall Street was only hoping to see the company generate $1.9 billion in revenue and earn just $0.20 per share.