Chris Conway, CLARCOR’s Chief Executive Officer, commented, “The growth and profitability of our filtration segments remained strong in the first quarter of 2012. We are particularly pleased with the continued operating improvement in our Industrial/Environmental Filtration segment, where operating profit increased 48% from the first quarter of 2011. Our 8.8% operating margin in this reporting segment in the first quarter improved 2.3 percentage points from last year’s first quarter. To appreciate the significance of the continuing improvement in financial results at our Industrial/Environmental Filtration segment, recall that the operating margin in this reporting segment in the first quarter of 2009 was 0.6%. With our continued focus on profitable growth in the Industrial/Environmental Filtration segment from the introduction of higher margin air filtration products into new markets and the continued growth of our process liquid filtration markets including oil and gas, we believe we are well-positioned to achieve our long-term operating margin goal of 15% in this reporting segment in the next three or four years.
“Combined operating margin at our filtration segments improved to 14.1% in the first quarter of 2012 from 12.7% in last year’s first quarter. This operating margin improvement was comprised of a combined 0.8 percentage point improvement in gross margin percentage and a combined 0.6 percentage point reduction in selling and administration expenses as a percentage of net sales. Our Engine/Mobile Filtration segment, which remains the solid base of our business, increased its first quarter operating margin 0.4 percentage points to 19.4% from last year’s first quarter. The combined reduction in selling and administrative expenses as a percentage of net sales in our filtration segments was indicative of our continuing culture of managing administrative costs prudently while supporting profitable growth.
“Both of our filtration segments in the first quarter of 2012 experienced solid U.S. growth and lower foreign growth. Net sales in our filtration segments in the U.S. increased a combined 12%, but foreign sales were flat. U.S. growth in our Engine/Mobile Filtration segment, with approximately 90% recurring revenue or aftermarket sales, was driven by strong trucking activity in conjunction with the continued expansion of our heavy-duty engine filter product offerings. U.S. growth in our Industrial/Environmental Filtration segment was across many of the markets we serve in this reporting segment including an approximate 20% increase in our U.S. oil and gas filtration sales which have benefited from new extraction activity at shale gas formations. Our foreign sales were negatively impacted in the first quarter by uncertain economic conditions in the Euro zone and lower sales in China. We continue to monitor the uncertainty in Europe, and although we now expect flat sales in China for full year 2012, we believe we continue to be strongly positioned to capitalize on China’s projected long-term filtration growth.”