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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Toromont Q4 profit plunges 23% compared with strong 2012; ups dividend 15%

TORONTO - Toromont Industries Ltd. (TSX:TIH) has reported a 23 per cent plunge in fourth-quarter profits, but says that is substantially due to a strong finish in the comparable period of 2012.

Meanwhile, the Toronto-based Caterpillar dealer and manufacturer of refrigeration systems, said that based on the company's "solid financial position ... and positive long-term outlook," it will increase its quarterly dividend from 13 to 15 cents per share. The 15 per cent increase is effective with the April 1 payout.

In a report issued after markets closed, Toromont said net income fell to $34.4 million, or 45 cents per share, in the three months ended Dec. 31, down from $44.7 million, or 58 cents per share, in the year-earlier period.

The decrease was due to lower revenues, lower gross margins and a higher expense ratio in comparison with "the remarkable profitability seen in the fourth quarter of 2012," it said in a release.

Revenue was $407.3 million, off six per cent from $431.1 million in the 2012 period.

For the full year, Toromont said net income improved three per cent to $123 million, or $1.61 per share, from $119.5 million or $1.56 per share, as higher revenue and an improved expense ratio were partly offset by lower gross margins.

Revenue was up six per cent at more than $1.59 billion from just under $1.51 billion in 2012.

Toromont operates through two business segments. Its Equipment Group includes one of the country's larger Caterpillar dealerships, and CIMCO is a market leader in the design, engineering, fabrication and installation of industrial and recreational refrigeration systems.

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