In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, one of the companies that got the most attention was Generac Holdings (NYSE:GNRC). With power out for days or even weeks in some areas of the Eastern Seaboard, the appeal of the company's power-generating equipment became obvious, and since then, Generac has worked hard to maximize its opportunity to provide contingency backup power solutions to homeowners and businesses. Coming into its fourth-quarter financial report, Generac shareholders expected a natural slowdown from year-ago results that reflected the demand from Sandy. But Generac has clearly made a longer-lasting impression than even optimistic investors hoped, as its results blew those expectations out of the water as the company kept growing. Let's take a closer look at how Generac powered up in the fourth quarter and what it sees for 2015.
Power On for Generac Holdings
Generac's results for the fourth quarter were impressive even without considering the fact that investors had expected a slowdown. Revenue climbed 7.4% to $404 million, and net income edged up almost 2% to $49.4 million. On an adjusted basis, earnings per share fell about 12% to $0.98, but that far exceeded the $0.77 per share that those following the stock were looking to see from Generac.
Looking more closely at its different product lines, Generac saw a big disparity between its two major focus areas. On the residential front, sales fell 2% from the year-ago quarter, with the company citing the end of what it called the "afterglow period of demand" from Sandy. Yet the company's commercial and industrial products more than made up for that decline, with segment sales rising 17%.
Generac's full-year results showed the same general pattern. Overall, sales dropped 1.7%, with weakness in the residential area more than offsetting gains in the commercial and industrial product line. GAAP net income actually stayed flat for the year, although adjusted earnings fell by nearly a dollar per share to $3.34.
Generac was excited about its success. CEO Aaron Jagdfeld noted that even without as many power-outage events nationwide, "Home standby generator sales exceeded our expectations during the fourth quarter, with activation rates proving to be resilient as we leveraged our innovative sales and marketing techniques to help create awareness for the product category." Moreover, Jagdfeld pointed to the benefits of higher baseline residential demand and the new balance that its commercial and industrial sales represent for Generac going forward.
Will Generac keep delivering electric results?
Looking at 2015, Generac Holdings was cautiously optimistic. The company gave initial guidance for sales to increase in the low-to-mid-single-digit percentage range, and further growth in operating margins should help boost free cash flow and earnings.
One area of concern for Generac is the oil and gas industry, which has played a significant role in helping the company boost its commercial and industrial demand. Yet Generac appears to have a longer-term view on the energy market, and Jagdfeld said that "while the near-term outlook in certain end-market verticals such as telecommunications and oil and gas point to softer demand, we are optimistic about the long-term need for our products used in these applications."
What's especially interesting for Generac, though, is the extent to which power-generating equipment has made its way into the mainstream. In the past, home generators were noisy and seen as nuisances by neighbors, detracting from their appeal. Yet advances in technology have made them quieter and therefore more appealing, and now, many homebuilders tout the inclusion of power-generating equipment as a new standard.
Generac shareholders were impressed with the report, bidding up the stock by 8% in the first couple of hours of pre-market trading following the announcement. With so much potential for growth in the home and commercial markets, Generac Holdings has clearly gotten stronger in the wake of the storm and stands to make the most of its opportunities in 2015 and beyond.
Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Generac Holdings. 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.