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Solar acquisition helps Gibraltar top profit forecasts

Gibraltar Industries’ bet on the solar power industry is looking like a bright idea.

The Hamburg-based construction and industrial products manufacturer’s first-quarter profits jumped by 19 percent and easily beat analyst forecasts, mainly because of the impact of its acquisition last summer of a company that makes the mounting systems for solar energy systems.

While sales weakened at its core markets in residential construction and infrastructure markets, the acquisition of Rough Brothers last June added $54 million in new revenue and accounted for all of Gibraltar’s 17 percent increase in sales.

At the same time, the company’s push to reshape its existing operations to improve efficiency led to significant improvement in profitability at those businesses, even as their sales declined.

“We have made excellent progress in refocusing our resources and improving efficiencies,” said Frank Heard, Gibraltar’s CEO. “As a result, we have delivered increased profitability out of our base businesses despite market headwinds.”

Gibraltar’s first-quarter profits rose to $6.5 million, or 20 cents per share, from $5.5 million, or 18 cents per share, a year ago.

Excluding restructuring costs and other one-time expenses, Gibraltar’s earnings rose more than three-fold to $7.6 million, or 24 cents per share, from $1.8 million, or 6 cents per share, a year ago. That was double the 12 cents per share that analysts were expecting.

Gibraltar’s sales rose to $234 million from $201 million, beating the analyst forecasts of $226.4 million.