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MarineMax puts best face on its worst loss

By Scott Barancik
Published January 9, 2007


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Few companies could get away with describing their worst-ever quarter as a growth opportunity, but MarineMax almost did Monday.

In an unscheduled call with Wall Street analysts, the Clearwater boat retailer said it probably lost 20 to 25 cents per share in the quarter ended Dec. 31, far more than expected and easily its worst effort since going public in 1998. It also slashed its 2007 earnings forecast. Chief executive William McGill blamed the limp U.S. housing market and other uncontrollable factors for causing worried consumers to delay big-ticket purchases, including boats.

But McGill said the slowdown gives MarineMax the opportunity to broaden its industry-leading market share. The company already has gained by spending extra on promotional discounts and other sales efforts. It stands to take an even larger share if the slowdown becomes protracted and weaker competitors seek buyers. "It has always been one of our core strategies to grow in difficult times," McGill said.

Some investors apparently heard him. After falling as much as 19 percent early Monday, MarineMax's stock price partially rallied to close at $22.05, down 11 percent, or $2.72 per share.

A highly seasonal business, boat sales typically peak in summer and plummet at year's end; MarineMax's only prior quarterly losses also came in a fourth quarter. But its December 2006 loss was its first in four years and far larger than the prior greatest loss of 4 cents per share in December 2000.

In July, MarineMax predicted it would earn roughly $2.15 to $2.25 per share in 2007. It lowered its sights to a range of $2.05 to $2.15 in November, and then to $1.40 to $1.50 on Monday.

Scott Barancik can be reached at barancik@sptimes.com or 727 893-8751.

[Last modified January 9, 2007, 00:32:03]


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