Riding in with its fourth-quarter results before the market opened on Wednesday morning was Wabtech (NYSE: WAB). The rail and industrial technology and service provider enjoyed a strong quarter as its results beat analyst estimates on both the top and bottom lines. The company expects that trend to continue as it sees nothing on the horizon that should derail what it expects to be another solid year in 2015.
A look at the numbers
Wabtec reported fourth-quarter revenue of $821 million. That was 20% higher than the fourth quarter of last year, and it beat analyst estimates by nearly $15 million. The strong revenue growth was driven by higher sales in both the company's Freight and Transit groups. The highlight, however, was revenue growth by its Freight group, as segment sales were up nearly 24% to $481 million, which was a stronger showing than its Transit group, with sales up 16% to $340 million.
The company was able to turn its strong revenue growth into even stronger earnings growth as earnings per share were up 25% year over year to $0.95 per share. That was a penny better than analysts had expected. Meanwhile, income from operations totaled $137 million, or $16.7% of sales. That's up from $111 million, or 16.3% of sales in the fourth quarter of last year, as the company was able to improve its margins a bit, which provided a bigger boost to its bottom line.
This capped a record year for the company as it delivered full-year sales of $3.62 billion and income from operations of $527 million, or 17.3% of sales to go along with earnings of $3.62 per share. The company also generated $472 million in cash flow from operations, which enabled it to end the year with a very strong balance sheet consisting of $426 million in cash against $520 million in debt.
A look ahead
Looking ahead to 2015, Wabtec expects its strong results to continue. In commenting on its outlook in its earnings press release, CEO Raymond Betler said:
We are anticipating record results again in 2015. While we expect to face challenges this year, including global economic uncertainty and foreign currency exchange headwinds, we will benefit from ongoing investment in freight rail and passenger transit projects around the world. Our long-term growth prospects remain solid, thanks to our diversified business model, balanced strategies and rigorous application of the Wabtec Performance System.
To that end, the company issued the following guidance: It expects to deliver earnings of about $4.05 per share, which would be about 12% higher than 2014. Meanwhile, the company expects its revenue to increase by about 10% from last year's record level.
Wabtec enjoyed a record year in 2014 as its sales, income from operations, and earnings per share all hit new highs. Those records are expected to be shattered in 2015 as the company expects earnings and sales to both climb by double-digits.
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