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Astec Industries Inc. tripled its third quarter earnings compared with a year ago, but the results fell short of analysts expectations.

The Chattanooga-based asphalt and heavy equipment maker said today it earned $6.8 million, or 30 cents per share, on sales of $247.8 million in the three months ended Sept. 30. In the same period a year ago, Astec earned $2.3 million, or 10 cents per share, on sales of $211.4 million.

The results fell short of Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of five analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 37 cents per share in the third quarter.

Sales were better than expectations. Five analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $244.4 million in sales.

"Despite our strong overall performance, we still face several challenges," Astec CEO Ben Brock said in a statement today. "Low oil and natural gas prices have hurt our Energy Group sales. The mining slowdown has hurt our Aggregate and Mining Group sales. The strong U.S. Dollar continues to affect our ability to export from our U.S. based operations. Nonetheless, our year-to-date revenues are up 7 percent and our year-to-date earnings are up 47 percent versus last year."

Brock credited the gains to stronger domestic paving equipment sales and global sales of wood pellet equipment. Astec said its backlog is up 55 percent from a year ago.

Astec Industries shares have risen 48 percent since the beginning of the year. The stock has climbed 89 percent in the past 12 months.

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