The Toro Co. last week reported net earnings of $62.8 million, or $1.73 per share, on net sales of $1,523.4 million for its fiscal year ended Oct. 31. For fiscal 2008, the company posted net earnings of $119.7 million, or $3.10 per share, on net sales of $1,878.2 million.

For the fourth quarter of fiscal 2009, Toro reported a net loss of $0.5 million, or $0.02 per share, on net sales of $288.6 million. In the comparable fiscal 2008 period, Toro posted breakeven net earnings on net sales of $341.2 million.

Despite the recessionary environment, the company generated a record $251.5 million in cash flow from operations as a result of the Red Iron Acceptance joint venture strategy, a continued focus on asset management, and by executing soundly against its working capital initiative. Excluding the sale of receivables in the fourth quarter to Red Iron Acceptance, the company’s operating cash flow for the year continued to track at historically high levels. Together, these measures help strengthen the company’s cash position to drive future growth and shareholder value. As reported last week, Toro’s board of directors raised its regular quarterly cash dividend to 18 cents per share, a 20-percent increase from its previous quarterly dividend rate of 15 cents per share. In fiscal 2009, the company returned $137 million to shareholders through share repurchases and dividend payments.

“In the face of extraordinarily difficult market and operating conditions, we took early and decisive action to ensure liquidity, grow our market share, and balance the short-term challenges against the long-term needs of the organization,” said Michael Hoffman, Toro’s chairman and CEO. “Through solid customer relationships, and product lines enriched by many new innovations, we had great success winning share even as our markets contracted. Additionally, the actions we took during the year to adjust production and manage inventories resulted in lower seasonal borrowing and a stronger balance sheet.”

Commenting on Toro’s outlook for fiscal 2010, Hoffman said the company believes demand in its end markets is stabilizing. “Our outlook in the coming year assumes that declines in our markets are largely behind us, so we’re currently expecting net sales for fiscal 2010 to be roughly comparable to last year,” said Hoffman. “While much uncertainty remains as to the pace and degree of the economic recovery, we are encouraged by our strong customer relationships, continued high level of new products, and the ability to invest in new opportunities. We have taken measures to adjust our cost structure, improve our overall operating effectiveness, and will be more flexible to react to retail demand in the year ahead.”

The company currently expects fiscal 2010 net earnings per share to be about $2.00 on comparable revenues with fiscal 2009. For its seasonally smaller fiscal first quarter, the company expects to report net earnings per share of about $0.18 to $0.20.

The Toro Company, Bloomington, Minn., is a worldwide provider of outdoor maintenance equipment and beautification products to help customers care for golf courses, sports fields, public green spaces, commercial and residential properties, and agricultural fields.