Miller Industries stock jumps as profits improve after plant expansions

Miller Industries stock jumps as profits improve after plant expansions

November 7th, 2018 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Updated at 7:19 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, with more information.

Jeff Badgley, CEO of Miller Industries Inc., speaks during a press conference at Miller Industries in Ooltewah, Tennessee. Jeff Badgley, CEO of Miller Industries Inc., Jamison Linden, General Manager of Operations for the Ooltewah branch of Miller Industries Inc., Randy Olson, VP of Marketing, Tom Griffin, Exports, Vince Tiano, VP, blue polo stipes Vince Mish, CFO, (hat) Bill Beckley, Corporate director of Human Resources,

Jeff Badgley, CEO of Miller Industries Inc., speaks...

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Buoyed by $54 million of plant upgrades and investments at its plants in Tennessee and Pennsylvania, Miller Industries boosted its sales this summer by nearly 28 percent and nearly doubled its third quarter profits.

The better-than-expected results for the Ooltewah-based tow truck equipment maker boosted shares of Miller Industries Thursday by nearly 10 percent from the 19-month low the company reached on Wednesday. Miller Industries said it has completed the $20 million expansion of its Ooltewah production facility, which added 175 jobs in Chattanooga over the past two years, and other major expansions at its plants in Greeneville, Tennessee and Hermitage, Pennsylvania., helping to grow the company's total staff to more than 1,000 employees.

Jeff Badgley, co-CEO of Miller Industries told industry analysts Thursday that after the aggressive expansion effort, the company has boosted its capacity and improved its work flow and will be spending less in the near term on more capital projects.

"We are very pleased with our new facility improvements and are proud of the impact it has on our community," Badgely said in an announcement Thursday of the completion of the company's 30,000-square-foot addition to its paint facility in Ooltewah earlier this year. "With these additions, our Ooltewah, Tennessee facility now contains approximately 331,000 square feet of world class manufacturing and administrative space."

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, which provided some training and technical aid for the Miller Industries expansion, said the additions began in Ooltewah in 2016 and were completed in the first quarter of this year.

"As an international business, Miller Industries could invest and create jobs anywhere in the world," said Bob Rolfe, commissioner for the state's Department of Economic and Community Development. "Miller Industries already employs hundreds of Tennesseans, and we look forward to the long-term benefits 175 additional jobs will have on the residents of Hamilton County and its surrounding communities."

Founded in 1990, Miller Industries manufactures towing and recovery equipment.under the Century, Vulcan, Challenger, Holmes, Champion, Chevron, Eagle, Titan, Jige and Bonifac brand names.

"We consider Miller Industries one of our legacy companies that continue to play a key part in Hamilton County's economic development," Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said in a statement Thursday.

In the third quarter, Miller Industries earned $8.7 million, or 76 cents per share, on sales of $195.7 million. That was significantly better than the $4.5 million, or 39 cents per share, earned on $153.4 million in sales the previous year.

Badgley said demand for towing equipment remains strong and "our outlook for the remainder of 2018 remains positive, as backlog, economic conditions and demand remained strong in both domestic and international markets."

In response to the favorable earnings, shares of Miller rose by $2.36 per share to close Thursday at $26.16.

While demand and production capacity is improving for the company, Badgley said the tariffs imposed this year on aluminum and steel imports are boosting commodity prices and the impacts from the import duties "are increasingly noticeable." Miller raised its prices in August and, if tariffs continue to grow, could raise them again, Badgley said.

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


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