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MSC Industrial quarterly sales, net rise despite 'headwinds'

Erik Gershwind, president and CEO of MSC Industrial

Erik Gershwind, president and CEO of MSC Industrial Supply Co., at the company's customer support center in Melville Monday, Sept. 19, 2016. Credit: Barry Sloan

Despite a challenging economic environment for its manufacturing customers, MSC Industrial Direct Co.’s sales and earnings rose in its fiscal fourth quarter, the Melville-based company reported Tuesday.

Its results for the full fiscal year were mixed.

Fiscal fourth-quarter sales rose 2.4 percent from a year earlier to $745.1 million at the distributor of industrial tools and supplies. Net income increased 4.8 percent to $61.8 million in the quarter that ended Sept. 3. Per-share earnings climbed 6.3 percent to $1.02.

For the year, sales fell 1.6 percent to $2.86 billion. Net income was flat at $231.2 million.

MSC, which is co-headquartered in Davidson, North Carolina, derives an estimated 70 percent of its sales from North American manufacturing. Global and domestic economic factors have depressed demand for their products and, in turn, their demand for MSC’s tools and supplies..

“Conditions remained very difficult throughout the fourth quarter, much as they have for the past few quarters,” said MSC’s president and chief executive Erik Gershwind. “Low oil prices and the strong U.S. dollar continued to depress demand, particularly in metalworking and heavy manufacturing.”

But he added, “Despite these headwinds, our execution remains strong, including continued share gains … and strong expense controls.”

Chief financial officer Rustom Jilla noted, “our cash flow generation was particularly strong in fiscal 2016, and we returned $500 million to our shareholders through dividends and share buybacks.”

Gershwind said that MSC is “well positioned” for fiscal 2017 regardless of what happens in the industrial economy.

“Should conditions improve or even just stabilize, the company is poised for a tremendous growth and leverage story,” he said. “On the other hand, if difficult conditions persist, we will continue to capitalize on the opportunities a challenging environment creates for MSC.”

MSC’s shares rose 2 cents to $72.82 in New York Stock Exchange trading Tuesday. They are up 16 percent in the past 12 months.

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