The North American rubber industry appears healthier than it has in recent years, with earnings and profits in 2004 up for most companies.
The 100 largest firms combined for $45.8 billion in rubber-related sales last year, up 6.7 percent from $42.9 billion in 2003 and 13.6 percent from the $40.3 billion recorded in 2002. Only nine of the 100 companies reported lower sales in 2004 vs. 2003.
From a profitability standpoint, the 28 publicly held U.S. and Canadian companies with rubber operations reported an operating earnings/sales ratio last year of 5 percent and a net earnings ratio of 2 percent, up from 4 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively, in 2003. Only four firms reported losses last year vs. 11 in 2003.
Of the 28 public firms profiled in this year´s report, though, only nine generate half or more of their revenue from the sale of rubber products.
The publicly held firms on average put 3.1 percent of their sales dollars back into their firms as capital expenditures, up from 2.9 percent a year ago. West Pharmaceutical Services Inc. topped this category at 10.6 percent, followed by Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. and Rogers Corp. at 7.7 percent each.
These same firms invested in research and development at a 2.2-percent-of-sales clip last year, down slightly from 2.3 percent in 2003. Rogers Corp. and Esterline Technologies Corp. headed the class at 5.6 and 4.4 percent, respectively.
The average sales per employee-based on data from 24 companies that reported employee numbers-was $203,015. That was up 26.1 percent from $160,971 calculated a year ago from data from 29 firms.
The range of per-employee sales went from $87,887 for BRC Rubber & Plastics Inc. to $283,667 for Titan International Inc.
Nearly three-fourths of the 100 top companies are rubber molders, with 40 firms listing molding as their only process. The next most prevalent process is extrusion, listed by 20 firms, followed by hose making, 18; calendering, 16; tires, 14; belts, eight; and latex goods, three.
In terms of value, tires dominate the industry, accounting for about $27 billion, or nearly 60 percent of the total.
Tomkins P.L.C., parent of Gates Rubber Co., again was the largest non-tire rubber product maker last year, with $1.45 billion in estimated sales in North America.
The newly independent Cooper-Standard Automotive, spun off last year by Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., is a solid No. 2 non-tire rubber company with $1.3 billion in sales, a fraction ahead of Parker Hannifin Corp. and Goodyear´s industrial products unit.
Thirty-six of the 100 companies ranked are subsidiaries of foreign companies, including 10 Japanese, five French and five German, four British and four Swedish, two Swiss and two Canadian, and one each from Australia, Mexico, Italy and Finland.
These firms accounted for $22.2 billion, or 48.5 percent, of the sales.
New to the rankings this year are:
—Cooper Standard, debuting at No. 7 with sales $1.3 billion.
—GDX Automotive, spun off last year by GenCorp Inc., and ranking No. 20 with sales of $402.9 million.
Callaway Golf Co. and Myers Industries Inc. had the biggest gains, jumping 53 and 43 spots, respectively, on the strength of acquisitions.
Callaway jumped to 43rd after taking over TopFlite Golf in August 2003.
Myers Industries rose to 52nd as sales doubled on the strength of acquisitions in late 2003. The company bought Michigan Rubber Products and WEK from Applied Tech Products.