The company bagged those greener profits by expanding its gross margin to 35.6%, up from 34.9% year over year. In addition, selling, general, and administrative expenses dropped. Add in a reduction in the diluted shares outstanding, and you've got a recipe for double-digit bottom-line growth.
When I covered Toro last year, I was a bit on the bearish side, and no big fan of its then-low dividend yield. Since then, Toro's increased its yield and raised its dividend by $0.03 per quarter, to $0.12. The company continues to believe in itself, judging by its willingness to buy back many of its common shares, and the results beat analyst estimates by a significant amount.
All in all, I feel more bullish on the company this time around. A look at the latest 10-K shows that cash flows have been decent, and that free cash flow has been strong enough to take care of the dividend obligation, even as long-term debt remains stable.
Some things might temper that upbeat outlook, however. The latest six-month period contained no free cash flow, and Toro used more cash for operating activities than it had in the year-ago period. While that isn't exactly heartening, I'm willing to hold off on any rash conclusion on the cash-flow front until upcoming quarters. (Remember, summer, the prime lawnmowing season, is on its way.) It's more disheartening to see Toro's significant increase in debt this past quarter, especially given the company's share buybacks.
Nonetheless, the company enjoys impressive brand power. As Stephen Simpson suggested in an article on Toro last year, competitors such as Deere
I've come away from Toro's earnings report impressed, particularly by the company's renewed confidence and improved dividend payment. Still, the yield remains quite low compared to other consumer-products companies, and the cash flow and long-term-debt picture should also give potential investors pause. With the stock approaching a 52-week high as I write this, I have to trot out that oft-mentioned cliche: Patient investors should wait for a pullback in the share price. And even then, this company will merit full due diligence.
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Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns none of the companies mentioned. As of this writing, he was ranked 7,591 out of 29,263 rated players in the Motley Fool CAPS system. Don't know what CAPS is? Check it out. The Fool has a disclosure policy.