First quarter net earnings per diluted share grew to $0.62, a 38 percent increase from earnings of $0.45 per diluted share in the prior-year period. This was the highest quarterly earnings per diluted share in the company’s history.
“The first quarter was a terrific start to our fiscal year, continuing our momentum,” said Douglas A. Milroy, Chief Executive Officer. “We were particularly pleased with our strong operating margin improvement, which reflects crisp execution of our game plan, especially a company-wide commitment to service excellence and a focus on improving operations.”
Income Statement Review
First quarter revenue from rental operations grew solidly to $203.5 million, up from $194.0 million in the prior-year quarter. The rental organic growth rate was 5.6 percent. The organic growth rate is calculated using revenue adjusted for foreign currency exchange rate differences, acquisitions and divestitures. First quarter direct sales grew by 20.7 percent to $19.0 million, up from $15.7 million in the prior-year. Direct sales growth was primarily due to increased sales from new accounts.
Operating margin expanded to 8.8 percent, a 140 basis point improvement from the 7.4 percent margin in last year’s first quarter. The operating margin increase was primarily due to revenue growth leveraging fixed costs, productivity improvements in rental production and delivery, and lower energy and healthcare costs. These improvements were partially offset by an expected increase in rental merchandise expense.
Net earnings also benefited from lower interest expense and a lower effective tax rate. Interest expense in the first quarter was $1.0 million, down from $1.7 million in the prior-year period, primarily due to a lower effective interest rate, partially offset by higher total debt. The effective tax rate was 35.7 percent, compared to 40.0 percent in last year’s first quarter. The lower tax rate was due to the resolution of a tax contingency in the current period and the prior-year write-off of deferred tax assets related to equity compensation.
Balance Sheet and Cash Flow
The company ended the first quarter with total debt, net of cash, of $185.5 million and a debt to total capital ratio of 33.0 percent. The company reduced its total debt by $12.5 million during the quarter. Total stockholders’ equity at the end of the quarter was $417.6 million.
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