Coming off the heels of its first profitable quarter in six years, Titan International Inc. is showing optimism about its future.
``We expect demand to continue near this level through the second quarter, followed by third- and fourth-quarter sales much stronger than is seasonally customary in the agricultural, construction and consumer markets,'' said Maurice Taylor Jr., Titan CEO and president. ``The efficiencies implemented by Titan during the past few years have better positioned the company to maximize returns from operations in the future.''
The Quincy-based tire and wheel maker reported net profits of $5.3 million in the first quarter and posted its highest quarterly operating income since 1998. Along with this the company's stock price has rebounded as well, closing at $9.30 on June 2.
Before May 25, the stock hadn't been in double digits since Oct. 6, 1999.
Last year, the New York Stock Exchange notified the company it had six months to stabilize its common stock price because it had fallen below $1 per share.
The price climbed slowly and reached the $1-per-share level for good on June 10, 2003. After the cure period ended in September, the stock continued to grow, reaching $3 in December and $5 in February. The price jumped in April, rising from the mid-$5 range into the high $6 range, then gaining more than $1 in one day to $7.95 per share on April 29, the date Titan announced its first-quarter earnings.
Titan is doing all its in-house production at its Des Moines, Iowa, facility. It permanently closed its Natchez, Miss., site and its Brownsville, Texas, plant was mothballed in May 2003.
Despite the favorable economic conditions and successful consolidations, Mr. Taylor gave the bulk of the credit for Titan's first-quarter resurgence to the company's salaried and hourly employees.
``We've been in the sewer a long time, but we popped out of it in big fashion,'' he said. ``No question it's due to the effort of the people here. We have a super working force.''
Mr. Taylor's attitude has changed since 1998, when the unionized work forces in Des Moines and Natchez went on strike and stayed out for more than three years. The labor disputes, the 2000 recession and horrible conditions in the agricultural and construction equipment markets hurt Titan, as the company posted losses of $30 million-plus between 2001 and 2003.
But Mr. Taylor expects the farm and construction markets to strengthen through 2005, and the union work force in Des Moines is under contract into 2006.
Titan's $240 million racketeering lawsuit against the United Steelworkers of America, which stems from alleged activities against the company during the strikes, is still pending, with a 2005 court date on the docket.