Higher sales help Eastern Co. double profits

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The Eastern Co. reported last week it nearly doubled its first-quarter profits due to higher sales of existing products and the introduction of several new commodities that helped increase revenue.

The Naugatuck-based industrial conglomerate reported net income of $2 million, or 33 cents per diluted share, compared with $1.1 million, or 18 cents per diluted share, for the first quarter of 2011.

The earnings came on quarterly net sales of $40.5 million, a 22 percent increase from $33.2 million in the same quarter last year.

It was the ninth straight quarter in which the company has reported improved sales on a year-over-year basis.

Eastern is a 154-year-old company that makes vehicular and industrial hardware, locks, metal castings, and coin-vending and smart card products in 10 manufacturing plants in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Taiwan and China.

Leonard Leganza, Eastern’s chairman, president and CEO, said each of the company’s three business segments had increased sales and higher operating profits in the quarter compared to the first quarter of 2011. He also said the introduction of several new products accounted for about 25 percent of the company’s quarterly sales increase.

New products introduced during the quarter by Eastern’s Industrial Hardware segment included a line of vent products for the Class 8 truck market, an escape hatch for the company’s military vehicles program and a newly designed door latch for the recreational vehicle market.

Eastern’s Metal Products segment introduced steel roof anchors and several other new products for the mining industry, as well as new products for the railroad and solar panel markets, Leganza said. Its Security Products segment introduced newly developed payment system products for commercial laundry markets called “flash cash,” pinmate and digicoin — new products that had an important impact on first-quarter sales even though they were introduced prior to the start of the quarter, he said.

“If the economy continues to strengthen, we anticipate further increases in sales and earnings for 2012 compared to the prior year,” Leganza said in a news release. “The company is well-positioned for continued growth in the many markets we serve.”

The company has opted to increase its quarterly dividend by 11 percent to 10 cents per share of common stock, effective with the first quarterly payment of 2012, Leganza said. That dividend will be the company’s 287th consecutive quarterly dividend.

“The focus and emphasis we have placed on cash flow during the recent economic uncertainties have maintained the company in solid financial position,” he said. “We expect our current liquidity position to be sufficient to support our dividend policy, meet our debt service requirements and replace and upgrade capital equipment as needed.”