Manitowoc ( MTW) boosted its 2006 earnings guidance Tuesday to $3.75 to $4 a share, from $3.30 to $3.60 and vs. analysts' consensus estimate of $3.65. The world's largest manufacturer of construction cranes said that it cannot keep up with robust demand during what's usually the company's slowest period of the year. Manitowoc shares gained 11% on the session, closing at an all-time high of $91. The stock is up a full 80% year to date. The question for investors is whether Manitowoc is still attractive after such a huge move. In other words, should I do it? In 2005, the company received 72% of its total $2.25 billion of annual revenue from the core crane business. Manitowoc is experiencing 30% year-over-year sales growth in the division, and analyst Robert McCarthy of brokerage Robert Baird estimates the company's incremental margin, or profit margin within this particular segment, will expand 200 basis points sequentially, to 20%. The crane business is benefiting from growing global demand for commercial construction, as well as capacity improvement in the energy space. Like so many areas these days, Manitowoc is seeing the highest growth in Asia -- don't forget, the 2008 Summer Olympics will be in China. That said, the company received 52% of its 2005 revenue here in the U.S. Rebuilding the Gulf Coast in the wake of last year's hurricanes should generate significant near-term demand at home as well. Manitowoc also operates a food services division (18% of 2005 sales), which makes ice, beverage and refrigeration machines. The final 10% of revenue comes from a legacy shipbuilding business, which dates back to the company's founding in 1902. Contrary to the unexpected strength in the core crane business, management said the two smaller divisions are "performing in-line with levels planned at the beginning of the year." To view David Peltier's video take of this column, please
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If Manitowoc achieves the midpoint of its new full-year earnings guidance (the company is scheduled to release full first-quarter results on April 25), management would post its third-straight year of 60% earnings growth. Looking ahead to 2007, the consensus estimate of $5.39 a share suggests another year of 40% bottom-line growth is achievable. How long can the good times last? According to a research note Tuesday in which Deutsche Bank analyst Nigel Coe upgraded Manitowoc to buy, "we are still only midway through a typical 5-6 years crane upswing." The company's financial strength is also improving. Standard & Poor's raised Manitowoc's corporate credit rating to double-B from double-B-minus on March 24, and the total debt remains a manageable 25% of the company's capitalization. Manitowoc pays a 7-cent quarterly dividend, having maintained its current payout rate since 2002. Even so, the company yields just 0.3%, making the dividend relatively insignificant to the total-return equation. Readers should also note that Manitowoc will split its shares 2-for-1 on April 11. So yes, readers should do it. Even though shares were up 11% Tuesday to $91, I believe Manitowoc can see $100 by mid-2006 on a presplit basis. Traders may want to buy the stock at current levels; investors with a long-term outlook could be better served waiting for a pullback to the mid-$80s before committing new capital.