April 2, 2007 – Finance Digest

Piaggio reports increased sales in N. America
A dramatic sales increase in North America helped Piaggio Group post sizeable increases in both net sales and net income for its fiscal 2006.
The manufacturer of two-wheelers sold under the Piaggio, Aprilia, Moto Guzzi, Derbi, Vespa and Gilera brand names reported it increased North American sales by 59 percent over the previous year.
Overall two-wheeler sales were up 8.7 percent and volume was up 6.7 percent over 2005 with the biggest percentage increase coming from Moto Guzzi, which topped 10,000 motorcycles, a 70 percent jump from the previous year.
Other specifics the Italian company reported on its two-wheeler sales included:

  • Piaggio, Gilera and Vespa brands had a net sales gain of 11.3 percent over 2005 with more than 359,000 vehicle sales;
  • Vespa alone sold more than 100,000 units — a 15 percent increase from the previous year;
  • Moto Guzzi sold 10,200 motorcycles;
  • the Derbi brand slumped, going to 36,400 in 2006 from 46,800 the previous year.
    With its light transport vehicle sales, Piaggio Group reported selling more than 680,000 vehicles worldwide.
    The company’s overall sales were Euro 1.7 billion ($2.1 billion) in 2006, a year-over-year increase of nearly 11 percent.
    The company’s net income for the 2006 fiscal year was Euro 70.3 million ($93.5 million), an improvement of 85.5 percent from the previous year.
    What that net income amount does not include is the Group’s joint venture in China. Piaggio holds a 45 percent interest in the Piaggio Zongshen Foshan Motorcycle Co., which produces parts, engines, scooters and motorbikes in China based on Piaggio’s patents and technology. The company is jointly owned with China’s Zongshen Group and a local Chinese authority.
    Looking ahead, the Group said it’s bringing 25 new entries into the two-wheeler market this year. The company also will expand its offerings in its light vehicle transport business, which increased 32 percent last year.
    The Piaggio Group launched a successful initial public offering last summer.
    Chairman Roberto Colannino, who became CEO in October, last month declared that the reorganization phase had been completed and that the company was now looking to grow, setting sights on Vietnam and Brazil in the next three years. Piaggio has already expanded into China and India.

    Material cost increases hurts Bridgestone’s bottom line
    Despite double-digit sales gains, Bridgestone Corp. reported a decline in its overall net income, as the tire manufacturer was unable to overcome escalating oil and other natural resource costs.
    The company reported a net income of 85 billion yen ($725 million) for its fiscal 2006 — a 53 percent decline compared to the previous year.
    Sales, however, rose overall by 11 percent. Its tire sector also grew by that amount as the company said it continued to increase production capacity in strategic product lines and benefit from its research and technology.
    Sales in “The Americas” grew 15 percent in 2006 to 1.3 trillion yen ($11 billion). It’s unknown how the company’s motorcycle tire sales have done in the past year since the company does not break out its specific bike tire revenue.
    Bridgestone also reported sales gains in Europe (14 percent) and Japan (8 percent).
    Bridgestone expects profitability to continue to be an issue this year, with the expectation that costs for natural rubber, crude oil and other materials will remain high.

    LoJack grows its net sales by 12 percent
    LoJack Corp., the Westwood, Mass., company tied to the stolen vehicle recovery market, reported revenue increases for its fourth quarter, which ended Dec. 31, and its fiscal year.
    The company’s net sales rose 12 percent, to $213 million, for its fiscal year. Its fourth-quarter net revenue also increased by double digits, improving 10 percent to $51 million.
    “In 2006, we have successfully navigated a challenging business climate and delivered record unit volume, increased market penetration and our 17th consecutive quarter of revenue growth,” LoJack CEO Richard Riley said in a press release. “Our commercial and motorcycle businesses are taking hold and represented approximately 9 percent of our domestic revenue in 2006.”
    Its net income, however, fell 43 percent to $2.9 million in the fourth quarter. Part of the reason for the net income loss was the pre-tax charges of about $2.4 million related to the departure of the company’s former CEO. For the year, the company’s net income declined 10 percent to $16.5 million.
    LoJack also reported that its international revenue grew 5 percent in the fourth quarter to $11.4 million.

    Viper changes its primary trading venue
    Viper Powersports Inc. has changed its primary trading venue from Pink Sheets to the NASD Electronic Bulletin Board, the Minnesota-based company reported.
    Delays in getting a new proprietary engine ready for market delayed production of new units for Viper’s motorcycle company for roughly a year.
    That delay is expected to end in the second quarter of this year when the Minnesota manufacturer is scheduled to begin shipping two of its models, the Diablo and the Diamondback.
    “From there on out, we have a modest but steady ramp up plan that brings us to about 100 to 120 units for the 12 months starting from the time we commence production,” Viper President Cory McWhorter said in an interview with Powersports Business.
    Both the Diablo and Diamondback will feature the company’s new all-billet 152-cubic-inch engine. Viper currently has a dealer network of roughly 25 dealers, McWhorter said.

    Honda examining possibility of second plant in India
    Honda Motorcycles and Scooters India Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Japan’s Honda Motor Co., is reportedly looking to open a second manufacturing plant in India, according to several online reports.
    Honda’s India division also said it will enter the 100cc motorcyle segment and possibly build higher capacity (500cc) motorcycles in the next few years.
    Now the Times of India reported the company plans to come up with a new scooter by the third quarter of 2007-08 fiscal.
    Another online report said Honda Motorcycles and Scooters India, which has around 8.5 percent market share in the country’s two-wheeler market, currently manufactures 125cc (called the Shine) and 150cc (called the Unicorn) motorcycles.

    Sale of KTM stock boosts Polaris’ 2007 earnings guidance
    Thanks to the sale of 1.1 million shares of KTM stock, Polaris announced it’s increasing its previously issued guidance for full year 2007 earnings per share by $0.11 per share to a range of $2.91-$3.03 per diluted share, a 7-11 percent increase over the actual $2.72 earned in 2006.
    First-quarter 2007 earnings per share from continuing operations are now expected to be in the range of $0.32-$0.34 per diluted share compared to $0.26 earned in the first quarter of 2006.
    The company also said that its previously issued guidance for 2007 sales growth remains unchanged and is expected to increase between 1-3 percent for the full year, and decrease 6-8 percent for the first quarter 2007 compared to the same periods in 2006.

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