Benton Harbor, Mich. – Whirlpool’s fourth-quarter earnings rose
19.9 percent to $205 million on improvements in its North American business.
Net sales for the three months, ended Dec. 31, slipped 2
percent to $4.9 billion.
Whirlpool said price hikes, enhanced productivity and increased
sales of pricier products led to improved profitability in North America. But
those gains were pared by weak global demand, higher raw-materials costs,
unfavorable currency fluctuations, significantly higher restructuring expense, and
reduced production to work down inventory.
In North America, sales rose 1 percent to $2.6 billion
despite a 3 percent decline in unit shipments, reflecting improved product mix and
a recent round of price increases. This, plus employee benefit reductions and $96
million recouped from a supplier over quality issues, more than offset lower unit
volume, higher material costs and the impact from production slowdowns. As a
result, operating profit rose 281 percent, to $202 million.
“We exit 2011 with improving product price/mix,
significantly lower inventory levels and strong new product innovation,”
Whirlpool chairman/CEO Jeff Fettig said in a statement. “As we enter 2012, we
are executing strong actions to continue to improve operating margins through
our cost and capacity reduction initiatives, ongoing productivity programs and
previously announced price increases … These initiatives are the key drivers to
improving our operating margins throughout 2012.”
For the full year, net sales rose 2 percent to $18.7 billion
and net income fell 60 percent to $408 million.
Looking ahead, Fettig said Whirlpool is projecting
relatively flat to slightly improving industry demand during the year —
including forecasts of flat to 3 percent industry growth in North America — and
has “planned our business accordingly.”