Benton Harbor, Mich. - Higher costs, lower demand and a reduction in tax credits led to a 53 percent decline in Whirlpool's first-quarter profits.
Net earnings totaled $94 million on sales of $4.3 billion, a 1 percent decline, for the three months, ended March 31.
Excluding the impact of lower tax credits and other one-time items, operating profit rose 42 percent to $232 million.
In North America sales slipped 1 percent to $2.2 billion, but operating profit rose 155 percent to $151 million thanks to price increases, plant closures, improved efficiencies and increased sales of higher margin products.
"The first quarter was a strong start to the year as we benefited from our margin expansion efforts and continued innovation investments," said chairman/CEO Jeff Fettig, citing the company's cost and capacity-reduction initiatives and cost-based price hikes.
During the quarter Whirlpool North America launched:
- a Whirlpool-branded, 30-inch French-door bottom-mount refrigerator that fits into a standard 18-cubic-foot top-mount refrigerator opening;
- Maytag ranges that clean using water and low heat, avoiding the extreme temperatures and odor of traditional self-clean ovens;
- a KitchenAid 30-inch French-door bottom mount that extends the freshness of commonly purchased produce by up to 25 percent by absorbing the ethylene gas naturally emitted by some fruits and vegetables; and
- a Jenn-Air dishwasher series with alternating wash action, three-stage filtration, a variable-speed motor and pressurized wash arms for effective but quiet and energy-efficient cleaning.
Looking ahead, the company is projecting full-year U.S. majap industry unit shipments to be at the low end of a range of flat to 3 percent growth based on the current economic outlook.