published Friday, May 13th, 2011

Miller Industries’ repurchase plan boosts stock value

Shares of Miller Industries rose Thursday to the highest level since October 2007 after the towing and wrecker company announced plans to buy back up to $20 million of its stock.

Buoyed by higher sales and profits in the first quarter, Miller Industries said it is restoring its quarterly dividend and authorized a stock buyback using a portion of its growing cash.

Miller authorized a $5 million stock repurchase more than two years ago, but the company never exercised that option because of weakening market conditions.

Company Chairman Bill Miller told analysts last week that conditions have improved for Miller Industries to buy back stock, make selected acquisitions or both.

“We didn’t do it [exercise the stock repurchase option] before because of the condition of the world,” Miller said. “But that is getting better now.”

The announcement of the stock buyback came a week after Miller Industries reported that it earned $7.4 million, or 61 cents per share, on sales of $108.9 million in the first quarter of the year.

Revenues jumped nearly 51 percent over a year ago due, in part, to a military contract by Miller. But company CEO Jeff Badgley also said demand is picking up in the U.S. market.

At a recent trade show, Badgley said consumers were more confident, although higher fuel and commodity prices could both curb some demand and push up some production expenses for Miller.

“The feeling was better, but was tempered by what is coming in the future,” Badgley told analysts.

Shares of Miller Industries rose 17 cents per share, or nearly 5 percent, to $4.51 per share.

Miller Industries is the world’s largest manufacturer of towing and recovery equipment, and markets its towing and recovery equipment under such brands as Century, Vulcan, Chevron, Holmes, Challenger, Champion, Jige, Boniface and Eagle.

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