Shareholders meeting

Worthington Industries CEO predicts gains

  • Dispatch file photo
    Making gas cylinders is one segment of Worthington Industries, which posted increases in sales and net income in its first quarter.

September 27, 2013

Worthington Industries has plenty of helium for its cylinder business — despite concerns about possible shortages of the element — and the company’s profit is on track to continue a gentle rise.

Those were a couple of the key messages at the company’s annual shareholders meeting yesterday.

The Columbus-based manufacturer began its current fiscal year with an increase in sales and net income compared with the same quarter last year.

The company’s shares, which closed yesterday at $34.97, are also up — more than 50 percent from a year ago.

“What we’re seeing now is the beginning of a trend and not an aberration,” said Mark Russell, president and chief operating officer, of the rise in share price.

In the quarter that ended in August, Worthington reported net income of $54.6 million, up from $34 million, and sales of $692 million, up from $666 million.

The company’s steel-processing segment posted sales of $402 million, up from $385 million; the pressure-cylinder segment had sales of $217 million, up from $194 million. The only segment that lost ground was engineered cabs, with sales of $22 million, down from $32 million.

The outlook for the company is bright, said John P. McConnell, Worthington’s chairman and CEO, because of growth in key markets, such as commercial construction and agriculture, and continued strength in the auto industry.

About 20 shareholders attended the meeting.

Shareholders had no complaints but offered a few concerns. One man asked about media reports that the country is running out of helium. This is a potential problem for Worthington because its cylinder division makes Balloon Time brand cylinders, which use helium to inflate party balloons.

“We’ve always been able to get it,” said Andy Billman, president of the cylinder division. While acknowledging that there is a “tight supply” of the gas, he said he sees no reason to worry about it.

Worthington has about 10,000 employees in 11 countries. It has grown in the past year by acquiring companies that sell cylinders to the oil and gas industry, the latest in a series of acquisitions.

One Wall Street observer shared an optimistic view of the company yesterday.

“On a long-term basis, we see earnings for (Worthington) rising on a combination of acquisitions, organic growth and margin expansion in businesses outside of processed steel,” said a Standard & Poor’s analyst in a note to clients.