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Thor Industries Inc. (NYSE:THO) posted fiscal first quarter results on Monday. The company’s earnings more than quadrupled to $23.4 million, from last year's $5.1 million, driven by strong sales and management’s cost reduction initiatives. Earnings per share came in at 42 cents, compared to last year’s 9 cents and easily topped the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 27%, or 9 cents.

Thor Industries is a leading manufacturer and seller of recreation vehicles (RVs) and small and mid-size buses, as well as related parts and accessories in the U.S. and Canada. The company offers its products under such brands as, Airstream, Breckenridge, CrossRoads, Champion, ElDorado, Damon and Four Winds.

The Jackson Center, OH-based company reported a 14.5% growth in total sales to $502.6 million, from $438.8 million in the year-ago period. The growth was driven by a strong 18.0% expansion in RV sales to $389.9 million coupled with a 3.9% increase in buses to $112.6 million. The company also said that its total order backlog reached $599.0 million at the end of the quarter, recording a growth of 57.1% from $381.2 million last year.

Thor’s quarterly gross profit surged 74.2% year over year to $69.8 million, while gross margin rose by 480 basis points (bps) to 13.9%. The increased margin was primarily the result of lower freight costs, reduced wholesale and retail incentives provided to customers and increased sales of higher margin products. Selling, general and administrative expenses, as a percentage of sales, dipped by 90 bps to 6.9% mainly due to management’s aggressive cost cutting efforts. Accordingly, Thor’s operating margin jumped by 570 bps year over year to 6.9%, while operating income surged to $34.9 million, from $5.6 million in the year-ago quarter.

At the end of the quarter, the company had cash and cash equivalents of $223.2 million, compared to $177.7 million in the prior year quarter. During the quarter, Thor received $15 million from the redemption of certain investments, while deploying $31.6 million towards dividend payments and $911,000 towards capital expenditure. The company also stated that it expects to incur additional capital expenditure of $11 million in the fiscal primarily towards expansion of facilities and for replacing and upgrading machinery and equipment.

Meanwhile, the Zacks Consensus Estimate, derived from 5 covering analysts, on the company’s earnings for the fiscal year ending July 2010 is currently pegged at $1.29 per share, which moved down by 4 cents over the past 2 months. However, the most accurate estimate is more bullish at $1.44 per share.

Source: Thor Industries: First Quarter Earnings Quadrupled from 2008