“Robust sales continued throughout the quarter in both our professional and residential segments,” said Richard M. Olson, chairman and chief executive officer. “As we capitalized on the current demand environment and focused on serving our customers, our dedicated team and channel partners demonstrated extraordinary resolve in navigating global supply chain challenges.
“We delivered double-digit net sales growth for the second quarter in a row for the professional segment, with continued strength in landscape contractor and golf markets worldwide, increased pre-season shipments of BOSS snow and ice management products, and higher demand for rental and specialty construction equipment and Ventrac products. Residential segment net sales were also up double-digits on top of a very strong third quarter last year, driven by increased retail demand for zero-turn and walk power mowers. Customers are excited about our new and enhanced products across both segments, including our expanding line of battery-powered offerings. Our continued investment in key technology areas underscores our commitment to provide a broad range of innovative and sustainable solutions.”
Third Quarter Fiscal 2021 Financial Highlights
- Net sales of $976.8 million, up 16.2% from $841.0 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2020.
- Net earnings of $96.3 million, up 8.3% from $89.0 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2020; *adjusted net earnings of $99.4 million, up 12.1% from $88.7 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2020.
Year-to-date Fiscal 2021 Financial Highlights
- Net sales of $3.0 billion, up 18.2% from $2.54 billion in the same prior-year period.
- Net earnings of $349.8 million, up 35.8% from $257.5 million in the same prior-year period; *adjusted net earnings of $333.0 million, up 28.8% from $258.6 million in the first nine months of fiscal 2020.
- Deployed $100.0 million to pay down debt and returned $261.8 million to shareholders through regular dividends of $84.7 million and share repurchases of $177.1 million. As of July 30, 2021, the company had ample liquidity of $1.1 billion.
“As we enter the final quarter of our fiscal year, we anticipate continued strong demand for our innovative product offerings, and are encouraged by the benefits we are realizing from our productivity and synergy initiatives,” added Olson. “We continue to align our actions with market dynamics and are prudently managing expenses for what is likely to be a challenging supply chain, inflation and labor environment into next year. All in, we are positioned to deliver excellent results for the full fiscal year, including record organic growth as we approach $4 billion in annual revenue. I am deeply inspired by our team’s ability to deliver such impressive results in this incredibly dynamic operating environment.
“Looking ahead, we remain focused on our enterprise strategic priorities of accelerating profitable growth, driving productivity and operational excellence, and empowering people. We are actively prioritizing investments in key technology areas of alternative power, smart connected and autonomous, and ensuring we have capacity to meet expected future growth,” concluded Olson.
The company is increasing its full-year fiscal 2021 guidance, and now expects net sales growth of about 17%, up from a range of 12% to 15% previously, and *adjusted EPS in the range of $3.53 to $3.57 per diluted share, up from the prior range of $3.45 to $3.55 per diluted share. The company’s updated guidance is based on management’s current visibility, and reflects expectations of a strong demand environment, coupled with continuing supply chain, inflation and labor pressures. The *adjusted diluted EPS guidance range excludes the benefit of the excess tax deduction for stock-based compensation and the net impact of certain legal settlements.
Fiscal Third Quarter Segment Results
- Professional segment net sales for the third quarter were $718.5 million, up 15.2% compared with $623.6 million in the same period last year. The increase was primarily driven by strong demand for landscape contractor, golf, snow and ice management, rental and specialty construction, and Ventrac products, slightly offset by decreased sales of underground construction equipment due to product availability.
- Professional segment earnings for the third quarter were $122.3 million, up 7.6% compared with $113.7 million in the same period last year, and when expressed as a percentage of net sales, 17.0%, down from 18.2%. The 120 basis point decrease was largely due to higher material and freight costs, partially offset by net price realization and productivity improvements.
- Residential segment net sales for the third quarter were $252.1 million, up 23.0% compared with $205.0 million in the same period last year. The increase was primarily due to strong retail demand for zero-turn and walk power mowers.
- Residential segment earnings for the third quarter were $31.5 million, up 10.5% compared with $28.5 million in the same period last year, and when expressed as a percentage of net sales, 12.5%, down from 13.9%. The 140 basis point decrease was largely driven by higher material and freight costs, partially offset by net price realization, productivity improvements and product mix.
Gross margin for the third quarter was 33.9%, down 110 basis points compared with 35.0% for the same prior-year period. *Adjusted gross margin for the third quarter was 33.9%, down 130 basis points compared with 35.2% for the prior-year period. The decreases in gross margin and adjusted gross margin were primarily due to higher material and freight costs, partially offset by net price realization and productivity improvements.
SG&A expense as a percentage of net sales for the third quarter increased 20 basis points to 21.4% from 21.2% in the prior-year period. The increase was primarily driven by more normalized spending compared with a year ago and a legal settlement in the third quarter of this year.
Operating earnings as a percentage of net sales decreased 130 basis points to 12.5% for the third quarter. *Adjusted operating earnings as a percentage of net sales decreased 80 basis points to 13.1% for the third quarter.
Interest expense was down $1.3 million for the third quarter to $7.0 million, driven by lower debt levels and decreased interest rates.
The effective tax rate for the third quarter was 18.0% compared with 19.8% for the third quarter of fiscal 2020. The *adjusted effective tax rate for the third quarter was 19.3% compared with 20.9% for the third quarter of fiscal 2020. The decreases were primarily driven by one-time adjustments related to prior years, partially offset by the geographic mix of earnings.