With a nod toward everyone's insistence that they're Irish today, Goodyear
For the first time in four years, the company has posted a profit. Perhaps just as noteworthy -- and seemingly just as long -- the tire maker filed its financial reports in a timely manner. In recent years, Goodyear has found itself plagued by internal accounting controls, or lack thereof, which have led to inaccurate, restated, or no quarterly/annual earnings releases.
The two events are significant. Once on the brink of bankruptcy, Goodyear's return to profitability marks a big turnaround. With a five-year plan in place, the company trimmed more than $1 billion in costs, laid off more than 20,000 workers, and closed eight factories worldwide. It was an austerity plan in the extreme, but it was also necessary. The company had reported huge losses of more than $2 billion over the past two years and had to deal with a software bug that led to revenues being overstated by roughly $100 million over five years.
The good news might also mean that Goodyear will someday put its accounting woes behind it. The software glitch led to earnings restatements that led to delayed filings for its quarterly reports. And as each quarter came, Goodyear announced it was delaying the numbers as new problems crept up. Once, the company waited until just an hour before its scheduled conference call to cancel. Then, as things seemed to have turned the corner and 2004 was shaping up to be a good year, the company delayed again. Just this past January, it delayed filing 2003's annual report! So when I say it's significant that the company got its report out on time, I really mean it. It's a monumental achievement.
So how good was the turnaround? Revenues for the year were $18.4 billion, up 21% over last year and generating earnings of $115 million, or $0.63 per share. That blows away analyst estimates of only $0.24 per share for the year.
The key was a stellar fourth quarter. Revenues hit a record $4.8 billion on the strength of sales from its North American division. The company sold 55 million units in the quarter, up from 53 million last year, with nearly half of the sales coming from North America. This division had been the company's mighty driver of growth in the past, but it was also a major stumbling block during the lean years. The company also got a lift from the weak dollar and from savings generated by consolidating two subsidiaries. Net income of $125 million, or $0.62 per share, topped consensus estimates of losses of a penny per share.
Goodyear's good news compares favorably with that of competitor Cooper Tire & Rubber
Yet it's not as if Goodyear is at the Bonneville Salt Flats and ready for a rocket ride. With higher costs of basic materials, cutbacks from original equipment manufacturers, and a currency exchange rate that makes any foreign sales look that much better, the company is also saddled with rising employee health-care costs, pensions that will add hundreds of millions of dollars in costs each year for the next few years, and long-term debt that, although being restructured on more favorable terms, still stands in excess of $5 billion and is likely to weigh on performance.
In fact, Goodyear's fix may well be decidedly short-term, given the impending health-care and pension expenses amid a presumably large crop of retirees. In addition, the cost of raw-material (i.e., rubber) extraction is tied to oil costs, and that adds yet another uncertainty to Goodyear's results as a going concern.
As high as those hurdles are, though, Goodyear seems to have fixed its flats and is no longer riding on the rims. So we'll tip our tam-o'-shanter on this St. Patrick's Day to the tire maker's progress and quaff some green-tinted beer in honor of a solid quarter and year, as well as a return to profitability.
Go 'round and 'round with the Goodyear story by reading these related articles:
- Goodyear's Skidmarks
- Goodyear Deflated
- Goodyear Retreads -- Again
- Oops! Goodyear Did It Again
- There's No Accounting for Goodyear
- Goodyear Expects a Good Year
- Goodness Gracious, Goodyear!
Fool contributor Rich O'Duprey isn't really Irish, though he acts like he is on St. Patrick's Day. He owns shares in Goodyear but does not own any of the other stocks mentioned in the article.