Screw-in hydraulic cartridge valve and manifold producer Sun Hydraulics (Nasdaq: SNHY) reported fourth-quarter 2007 and full-year earnings yesterday. Shares traded up 17% before the close, making Sun the highest-returning stock on an otherwise bland day for the Nasdaq.

The most notable aspect of the quarter was the company's booming international sales, particularly in Europe and Asia/Pacific, which, according to CEO Allen Carlson, constituted 80% of the company's 2007 growth.

Other factors were also impressive, however:

  • Net sales increased 18% to $167.4 million for the year.
  • Profits were up 36% to $22.1 million.
  • Cash on the balance sheet improved from $9.4 million in 2006 to $19.2 million in 2007.
  • Long-term debt remained quite manageable at just $284,000. (Yes, that's thousands.)
  • Free cash flow grew from $10.1 million in 2006 to $15.7 million in 2007.

Sun's cartridge valves and manifolds are used in equipment valuable to myriad industries across the globe, including oil drilling, mining, alternative energy, construction, and forestry. It's hard to believe that a $437 million company can have such a diverse revenue stream and geographical footprint.

There are larger companies in the industrial equipment and components field, such as Emerson Electric (NYSE: EMR), Parker Hannifin (NYSE: PH), and Roper (NYSE: ROP), but Sun's goals of providing top-notch valves and manifolds, and expanding its global reach, have helped pace Sun shares ahead of those competitors over the past five years.

Sun also made a strategic acquisition last year, picking up a 35% stake in High Country Tek, which designs and manufactures software and hardware. CEO Allen Carlson says it will help Sun "get closer to our customers and better understand their electro-hydraulic system requirements."

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Fool contributor Todd Wenning recommends the movie "Once" to anyone who has yet to see it. He owns shares of Sun Hydraulics. The Fool's disclosure policy is the real deal.