The U.S. economy is turning the corner on the pandemic and many of Minnesota's largest businesses are seeing an effect on sales and profits, a flurry of results announcements over the last two weeks showed.
Performance in the January-through-March period has been shaped by easy comparisons. Revenue and profits at many businesses plunged in late February and March last year when the first wave of coronavirus spread and offices and public life shut down.
Even so, the new results from the start of 2021 at Minnesota businesses portray a broad recovery, underscoring other data that reveals a strengthening U.S. economy.
Land O'Lakes, one of the nation's biggest farm cooperatives, said its profit quadrupled to $136 million, its best result in a first quarter in more than a decade. With grain prices high, farmers spent heavily to get ready for spring planting. Meanwhile, the co-op's dairy business continued to see strong sales at retailers.
"The operating environment and fundamentals are strong in each business segment," Beth Ford, the co-op's chief executive said.
Polaris Inc., the maker of outdoor vehicles, reported the strongest level of snowmobile sales in nearly 25 years. The company said 60% of its snowmobiles were purchased by first-time buyers. Its revenue surged 40% and the company reversed from a loss last year to a $134 million profit.
Motorcycle sales were also up 31% in the cold-weather months that aren't typically strong for them. One result: Polaris executives raised full-year sales and profit expectations sharply higher, while some investment analysts questioned whether the firm will be able to keep up with demand.
Strong market conditions for investment banking and institutional brokerage services led to record first-quarter revenue at Piper Sandler Cos. On Friday, it reported a $49.5 million profit, turning around from a loss of around $15 million in last year's first quarter.
The Minneapolis investment bank also reported a record amount of corporate financing and a strong rebound in revenue related to its work helping other companies do mergers and acquisitions.
Earlier in the week, Ameriprise Financial Inc. reported a 27% jump in operating earnings adjusted to exclude the effect of a tax benefit it got in the year-ago period. The company, which has about 10,000 financial advisers around the country, said the value of their clients' assets was 36% higher at the end of March than a year ago.
Meanwhile, SPS Commerce, a Minneapolis company that helps retailers with e-commerce systems, saw its revenue jump 21% as consumers relied more heavily on digital shopping. Its profit was up 7% from a year ago.
Evan Ramstad • 612-673-4241
Patrick Kennedy • 612-673-7926