* Fiscal Q1 EPS beats expectations
* Dealer pricing power continues to improve
* Output and backlog grow (Adds CEO comments, details on prices)
By James B. Kelleher
Dec 19 (Reuters) - Winnebago Industries Inc, the No. 1 U.S. motor home maker, reported a 51 percent jump in quarterly profit on Thursday as strong demand for its new line of lower-priced recreational vehicles prompted dealers to increase orders.
But the company’s shares, which have more than doubled in value over the past year, tumbled as much as 13 percent, pulled down by softer-than-expected sales.
The Forest City, Iowa-based company, which announced just last month it was opening a third plant to expand production of one of its fastest-growing RV lines, said deliveries to dealers reached a five-year high during the quarter and that its backlog grew for the eighth consecutive quarter.
Winnebago, which normally suspends production for two weeks in December, will keep its factories open for four extra days this month, in part to fill a big purchase order from an RV rental company.
Randy Potts, the chairman, chief executive and president, called the extra holiday season production days “a very, very unusual occurrence” and a sign the RV market, which was walloped during the recession, continued to recover.
Winnebago continued to introduce a number of lower-priced RVs during the quarter. As a result, the average wholesale price it charged dealers fell by 10 percent to just over $100,000.
But it said buyers were snapping up the value-priced vehicles without requiring a lot of dealer discounting or haggling.
In the just-finished quarter, Winnebago delivered 2,005 motor homes to dealers, up 31 percent from the comparable period last year. But deliveries of its campers and towables fell 13.1 percent.
Potts said Winnebago’s troubles in the more affordable towables segment reflected a failure to bring the right products to market - not underlying weakness among less affluent consumers.
Net income rose to $11.1 million, or 40 cents per share, in the first quarter ended Nov. 30, from $7.4 million, or 26 cents per share, a year earlier.
Revenue was up 15 percent to $222.7 million.
Analysts, on average, expected earnings of 37 cents per share on revenue of $233.1 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
In mid-day trading on the New York Stock Exchange, Winnebago shares were down 10.3 percent at $28.36. The stock has more than doubled in the past 12 months, outperforming the 26 percent rise in the S&P 500 index. (Additional reporting by Sagarika Jaisinghani; Editing by Joyjeet Das and Jeffrey Benkoe)