The economic-stimulus plan that speeds tax rebates to senior citizens and disabled veterans may also provide a 33 percent profit boost over...

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The economic-stimulus plan that speeds tax rebates to senior citizens and disabled veterans may also provide a 33 percent profit boost over the next two years for Bellevue-based truck maker Paccar.

Small businesses will be able to double expense deductions under the stimulus bill, a spur for heavy-truck sales after an 18-month slump, said Jon Eide, who leads Wells Fargo’s commercial-equipment lending unit in Minneapolis. Paccar stock stands to rise, too, after a 30 percent drop since July 18.

“You’re going to need to buy these trucks sooner or later,” said Peter Bates, a T. Rowe Price analyst in Baltimore who oversees about $1 billion in assets, including Paccar shares. “It seems that Paccar could certainly benefit.”

Paccar, whose brands include Peterbilt and Kenworth, is struggling to recover from the 44 percent plunge last year in sales of its heavy trucks used to tow cargo-filled trailers. Truckers rushed to buy before tighter carbon-emissions rules took effect Jan. 1 that year, pushing up prices as the U.S. economy began sliding toward a recession.

Paccar’s profit is forecast to climb by a third to $1.63 billion in 2009, the average of seven analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg News. The company’s profit fell 18 percent in 2007, the first decline in six years.

Paccar, No. 2 in U.S. market share for heavy trucks behind Daimler, also may be able to regain its edge over No. 3 Navistar. Paccar is tied with Navistar this year at about 24 percent market share, according to data provider Ward’s AutoInfoBank.

“As sales recover in the second half into 2009, Paccar should widen the gap with Navistar once again,” said Brian Rayle, an FTN Midwest Research Securities analyst in Cleveland.

Paccar’s stock closed Thursday at $45.28, down 16.9 percent so far this year.

Rayle has kept a $70 12-month price target on Paccar since October — 37 percent more than the $51.08 average of six other analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Of 12 analysts surveyed who cover Paccar, three say buy, seven say hold and two recommend selling. At $16.6 billion, Paccar’s market value is 52 percent larger than that of General Motors.

Paccar’s profit surged almost a third in 2006 — sending the shares up 41 percent — as truck buyers stocked up ahead of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emissions rule that required new engine hardware. The rule added $10,000 to $15,000 to the price of trucks selling for as much as $300,000.

With truckers’ fleets refreshed and the U.S. economy weakening, industrywide heavy-truck sales dived 47 percent in 2007. Demand for so-called Class 8 models hasn’t strengthened this year, with sales down 43 percent through February to 19,829 units, according to Ward’s AutoInfoBank.

That’s why Paccar may gain under the $168 billion stimulus plan, signed last month by President Bush, that will send tax-rebate checks of $1,200 per couple.

As the bill went through Congress, lawmakers added rebates of $300 for people receiving Social Security payments or veterans-disability benefits of at least $3,000 a year, and raised depreciation write-offs for trucks and other large machinery to 50 percent from 20 percent. For small-business owners, including many mom-and-pop trucking outfits, expense deductions doubled to $250,000.

Still, counting on a truck-sales recovery may be risky amid weakness in housing, said JB Groh, an analyst at D.A. Davidson & Co. in Lake Oswego, Ore. New-home sales fell to a 13-year low in February, the U.S. Commerce Department reported Wednesday.

“If the economy gets any worse, you have to assume that sales may get hit right along with it in the second half, with fleet owners simply holding on to trucks longer or looking at the used market,” said Groh, who rates Paccar “neutral.”

Paccar and other truck makers can’t expect a 2006-style sales bump before U.S. emissions rules tighten again in 2010, said Nathan Spunt, a Fitch Ratings credit analyst in New York. Truckers may defer purchases because the new technology won’t be as sweeping or costly, Spunt said.

Others say Paccar is past the worst of the sales decline.

“Paccar does extremely well in Europe, and sales are going to continue to perform well there,” said Rayle, the FTN Midwest analyst. The region generates about 40 percent of Paccar’s sales.

In the U.S., some smaller companies have no choice about replacing their aging fleets after sitting out the 2006 new-vehicle rush, said Robert Toomey, an analyst at E.K. Riley Investments in Seattle, who rates Paccar “accumulate.”

Those buyers will be sensitive to the next upgrade in pollution rules and the stimulus plan’s Dec. 31 expiration, said Wells Fargo’s Eide.

“You’ve got this double bonus of cheaper trucks, relative to where they’ll be in 2010, and the tax benefits from the stimulus bill,” Eide said. “Things could be much better in November and December.”

Information from Bloomberg News reporter Courtney Schlisserman is included in this report.