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Whirlpool Earnings, Sales Down In Q1

BENTON HARBOR, MICH. — A difficult industry environment helped push first-quarter net earnings at Whirlpool down to $41 million, compared with $112 million in the year-ago period. First-quarter core earnings, which exclude restructuring and related charges and a one-time gain, were $73 million.

Net sales for the first quarter ended March 31 dropped about 3 percent to $2.52 billion, compared with $2.59 billion in the same three months last year.

“Based on our current forecasts for the global economy and regional industries, as well as the record number of new product introductions this year, we continue to believe that we will deliver record core operating results for 2001,” said David R. Whitwam, chairman/CEO. “As indicated previously, we expect our full-year core earnings to improve 15 percent over 2000 levels, with sequential improvement quarter by quarter throughout the year,” Whitwam said.

Whirlpool North America saw net sales drop 1.2 percent to $1.54 billion, down $19 million from the year-ago three months. Operating profit in North America decreased $34 million to $170 million for the period, compared with the same quarter last year.

Appliance industry unit shipments in the first quarter declined 10.5 percent, and it is expected that majap unit shipments in North America will be down 2 percent for the full year, compared with 2000.

Based on the current industry outlook, Whirlpool expects its record number of new product introductions and productivity gains to drive North America full-year performance to record levels in 2001.

Last December, Whirlpool said it planned to take a series of restructuring actions that, when fully implemented, would result in pre-tax charges of between $300 million and $350 million, as well as the elimination of 6,000 jobs.

In January, the company said it had completed the first phase of the restructuring, which resulted in a pre-tax charge of $70 million. Whirlpool’s actions are expected to produce savings of about $35 million in 2001, increasing to about $50 million on an annualized basis.

Whirlpool has declared a quarterly dividend of 34 cents per share on the company’s common stock. The dividend is payable June 15 to holders of common stock at the close of business on May 17.