Tire and wheel maker Titan International Inc. expects to make profits in the first quarter of 2004, based on a high volume of farm and construction back orders and increased prices.
The firm reported Feb. 27 a net loss of $6.2 million on sales of $120.5 million during the fourth quarter of 2003, both improvements over the year-earlier period, when it posted a net loss of $15.7 million on sales of $108.6 million.
For the year, Titan reported net sales of $491.7 million, a 6.2-percent increase over 2002. The company's net loss of $36.7 million in 2003 was slightly more than the $35.9 million loss a year earlier.
Despite the continuing losses, Titan believes its operating results from the quarter point toward progress in reaching profitability, said President and CEO Maurice Taylor Jr. The firm's operating loss for the quarter was $3.9 million, an improvement from the $11.3 million loss in the like period of 2002.
As a result of consolidation in 2003, Titan has experienced its strongest start to a year in 2004 since 1997, Taylor said. Orders surged beginning in December, and continue to do so in the first quarter, he said. Titan met the increased demand by hiking tire and wheel prices at the beginning of the year, enough to cover rising raw material costs and improve margins, Taylor said.
While Titan attempts to return to profitability, its stock price has made its own comeback. Last March, the New York Stock Exchange notified the company it had six months to stabilize its common stock price because it had fallen below $1 per share. The price reached a relative low threshold of 60 cents per share Feb. 21, 2003.
The stock began a slow climb, and the price hasn't been below the $1-per-share level since June 10. When the cure period ended Sept. 12, the exchange informed Titan it had met its requirements. The per-share price closed that day at $2.14.
The price has continued to rise, and March 1 it reached $6.39 per share, its highest level since July 2000. Titan shares closed March 3 at $5.75.