Brunswick beats expectations, profit up 44 pct.

022509searay1_jpg.JPGBrunswick Corp., parent company of Knoxville-based Sea Ray Boats, today reported a first quarter profit of $39.7 million, or 43 cents a share, easily beating analysts expectations.

The company’s earnings represent a 44 percent improvement from a profit of $27.5 million, or 30 cents a share, in the first quarter last year.

Analysts had expected earnings of 37 cents a share, according to Reuters.

Net sales were $974.2 million, down 1 percent from the same period last year. The company attribited the decline in sales to “specific factors affecting our Marine Engine and Life Fitness segments.”

Brunswick joins a growing list of companies reporting stronger than expected first quarter earnings.

Brunswick had about 780 Knoxville area employees last year, according to the Knoxville Business Journal 2012 Book of Lists. The company operates Sea Ray manufacturing plants in Vonore and East Knox County.

“Our first quarter increase in earnings per share demonstrates the continuing success of our business strategy,” Brunswick Chairman and CEO Dustan E. McCoy said in a statement. “Short-term financial performance continues to improve, even as we make increased investments for long-term organic growth. In addition, we are pleased to see U.S. marine industry retail demand up in the first quarter, with strong growth in the aluminum and fiberglass outboard product categories.”

The company slightly raised its outlook for the year, saying it now expects to earn $1.30 to $1.50 per diluted share. The company previously put the range at $1.20 to $150.

“Although a number of the factors that negatively affected sales and earnings in the first quarter will continue into the second, we are planning for significant sales and earnings growth in the second half of this year,” McCoy said.

Photo: In this 2009 photo Sea Ray Boats are shown in a Knoxville plant. (Knoxville News Sentinel/ Ed Marcum)