Tax law boosts profits for Miller Industries

Tax law boosts profits for Miller Industries

Tow truck maker hopeful for 2018 but worried about steel import taxes

March 7th, 2018 by Dave Flessner in Breaking News

The Ooltewah, Tenn., branch of Miller Industries Inc. is shown in this 2013 file photo.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

This story was updated March 7, 2018, at 10:18 p.m.

America's biggest tow truck maker is picking up more sales and profits from the recently enacted cut in federal taxes.

But even with record profits in 2017, Miller Industries said Wednesday it remains worried about the U.S. imposition of steel and aluminum tariffs that could boost its production costs and spur a costly trade war with other countries.

The Ooltewah-based manufacturer said Wednesday it earned a record $23 million, or $2.02 per share, on sales of $615.1 million last year. Net income for Miller Industries was up 15.5 percent from the previous year, while overall sales were up 2.3 percent from 2016.

For the fourth quarter, Miller earned $9.3 million, or 81 cents per share, on net sales of $159.7 million.

"The fourth quarter represents a strong end to fiscal year 2017, with top-line growth of 7 percent, gross profit growth in excess of 20 percent, and income before income taxes growth of 25 percent as compared to the prior year quarter," Miller Industries CEO Jeff Badgley said.

Most of the gains were because of tax benefits related to the re-measurement of deferred taxes under the new federal tax law adopted by Congress in December. Badgley said the tax gains offset the effects of higher health care costs and other employee benefits.

Badgley said he is optimistic about 2018, especially with its expansions last year of plants in Ooltewah and Greeneville, Tenn., and the consolidation of its Pennsylvania operations.

"With the completion of more capital projects, operations have begun to integrate these improvements and we expect both enhanced production efficiencies and additional capacity as we position ourselves to meet heightened customer demand," he said. "As we look into 2018, we believe that the investments in our facilities will support our strong backlog. We are positioned to move forward with confidence as we meet the increased demand for our products."

Badgley did sound a word of warning about President Trump's pledge to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

"We are monitoring current discussions related to tariffs on steel and aluminum in order to determine the impact they may have on our raw material costs in the future," he said.

The company also announced that its board has declared a quarterly cash dividend of 18 cents per share, payable

March 26, to shareholders of record at the close of business on March 19.

Shares of Miller Industries closed ahead of Wednesday's earnings announcement at $25.50, or 30 cents per share less than at the start of 2018 but $1.19 per share ahead of the company's stock price 12 months earlier.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.


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