Benton Harbor, Mich. - Major appliance maker Whirlpool said it 5 percent North American sales increase, to $1.8 billion in the first three months, was a record, compared with sales in the first quarter of 2002, also a record.
Excluding Whirlpool Mexico, sales were up slightly.
Operating profit in Whirlpool's North American region declined 12 percent, due primarily to year-over-year increases in pension and employee-related healthcare costs. Savings from productivity improvements and restructuring partially offset the decline.
Whirlpool claimed an overall solid financial performance for the first quarter, despite what the company called uncertainty in global markets and generally weak industry demand.
Whirlpool reported a 6 percent consolidated first quarter increase in net sales, to $2.72 billion, up from $2.57 billion in the year-ago period. Excluding consolidated sales from the company's acquisitions in Mexico and Poland, net sales increased 2 percent.
Whirlpool moved into the black in the first three months, ended March 31, reporting consolidated net earnings of $91 million, compared with a net loss of $529 million in the same quarter in 2002. The first quarter loss last year included one-time charges totaling $613 million, relating to a change in accounting principle and restructuring activities.
U.S. industry majap shipments declined nearly 2 percent in the first quarter, compared with the prior year, said Whirlpool. Based on current economic indicators, the company now expects full-year industry shipments to be flat, compared with last year's level. The company previously had forecast an industry increase of 2 percent.
Based on its revised industry outlook for key markets around the world, Whirlpool is revising its full-year earnings guidance down to $5.90 to $6.10 per share. This compares with a previous forecast of $6.20 to $6.40 per share.
'We continue to see uncertain economic and geopolitical environments in most markets in which we operate,' said David R. Whitwam, chairman/CEO. 'In this environment, Whirlpool operations will maintain emphasis on productivity and other cost saving efforts. In addition, we are evaluating measures to reduce the impact from year-over-year increases in pension and employee-related healthcare costs,' said Whitwam.