Quarterly conference calls with financial analysts are usually rather muted, and the most excitement usually experienced is a double-digit sales increase, but tempers flared among investors at Johnson Outdoors Q4 call on Thursday as management attempted to review third quarter results. The company announced at the beginning of the Q&A session that it would not be fielding inquiries about the proposed buy-back offer, but two JOUT shareholders did not heed these instructions.
One gentleman complained about a certain lack of transparency and said that he could not decide whether or not to tender his shares. He asked why the company was not able to have an open discussion about the buy-back offer. His question was left unanswered. Another investor, who was not quite as polite, openly accused Helen Johnson-Leipold, chairman and CEO, of stealing the company from investors.
Management did make it through their presentation, reporting that total company Q4 net sales increased 9.2% to $75.6 million compared to $69.2 million last year.
Gross margin increased 170 basis points to 37.3% compared to 35.6% last year. Operating expenses increased 260 basis points to 43.3% of sales compared to 40.7% last year. The companys net loss was up slightly to $3.8 million compared to a loss of $3.7 million in Q4 last year. Diluted loss per share for Q4 was 44 cents compared to 43 cents loss last year.
The operating loss at its Watercraft division was cut to $4.8 million, a 37% improvement compared to a $7.7 million loss last year. Sales for the quarter were $14.8 million versus $16.5 million last year. The Diving division suffered from the late summer hurricane season and its effects on popular diving destinations in the Caribbean.
Marine Electronics had a very successful year, but posted a slow fourth quarter because of unseasonable weather in the southeast. Perkins said that pre-season bookings in the division did not reflect this slow-down in sales. Fourth quarter Outdoor division sales increased 36.0% to $23.0 million compared to $16.9 million last year.
Divisional operating profits increased 42.4% to $4.7 million, or 20.3% of sales, versus $3.3 million or 19.5% of sales. Most of the success in the division was due to military contracts, but Perkins did say that the commercial tent business was up, and consumer tent sales were flat compared to declines last year.