Source AP ©

Whirlpool profit jumps 72%

By Anastasia Tomazhenkova: Whirlpool Corp. fourth-quarter net income rose 72 percent amid a year-earlier loss from discontinued operations and strong international results.The jump was helped by company's Maytag acquisition and an improved product mix and the weak dollar.

Whirlpool Corp.net earnings for all of 2007 rose 48 percent.

The appliance maker, which bought Maytag in 2006, said fourth-quarter earnings after preferred dividends increased to 187 million dollars, or 2.38 dollars per share, compared with 109 million dollars, or 1.37 dollar per share, in the prior year.

Quarterly revenue grew 7 percent to 5.33 billion dollars from 5 billion dollars a year earlier.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial expected net income of 2.15 dollars per share on sales of 5.27 billion dollars.

Shares of Whirlpool rose 11.07 dollars, or 13.6 percent, to 92.66 dollars in trading late Tuesday morning.

The company performed well despite flat domestic sales and continued price increases for energy and raw materials such as steel, Jeff M. Fettig, Whirlpool's chairman and chief executive, said during a call with industry analysts.

Whirlpool North America sales slipped less than 1 percent to 3 billion dollars, while sales in its European segment rose 12 percent to 1.1 billion dollars. Latin America sales surged about 30 percent to more than 1 billion dollars. Whirlpool Asia sales grew 26 percent to 155 million dollars.

Almost half of Whirlpool's revenues now come from foreign countries as the company becomes more globally diversified, Fettig said.

"Our international markets are currently experiencing higher growth rates and expanding profit margins, which is helping to mitigate a weaker U.S. market," he said.

When compared with the 6 percent drop industrywide in North American sales revenue, the company's less than 1 percent revenue decline "was a solid performance," Citigroup analyst Jeffrey T. Sprague wrote in a note to investors.

For all of last year, Whirlpool said its earnings after preferred dividends increased to 640 million dollars, or 8.01 dollars per share, compared with 433 million dollars, or 5.67 dollars per share, in 2006.

Annual revenue grew 7 percent to 19.4 billion dollars from 18.1 billion dollars a year earlier.

The Benton Harbor-based company anticipates 2008 net income between 8.50 dollars and 9 dollars per share.

Analysts predict a profit of 8.81 dollars per share.

Fettig said Whirlpool expects generally weak product demand in the United States and Europe but continued strong demand in such emerging markets as Latin America, India and China. The company also anticipates higher energy and materials costs and more volatility in global currency markets.

Still, Fettig expressed optimism about this year, saying Whirlpool's performance will be bolstered by "significantly higher investments in innovation and advertising" and by its willingness to adjust cost structure and manufacturing capacity.

He referred to Whirlpool's Jan. 31 announcement that it was closing plants in La Vergne (Tennessee), and Reynosa, Mexico.

"Given this economic backdrop, we believe we are very well positioned to continue our strong performance in this economic environment in 2008," he said.