Benton Harbor, Mich. - Whirlpool said cost reductions, improved productivity and increased sales volume fueled triple-digit earnings growth during the first quarter, suggesting a rebound for the long-depressed major appliance market.
The world's largest majap maker also raised its projections for U.S. industry shipments this year to between 3 percent and 5 percent, compared with its earlier outlook of 2 percent to 4 percent growth.
Whirlpool's net earnings rose 141 percent to $164 million, and net sales increased 20 percent to $4.3 billion for the three months, ended March 31. Excluding the favorable impact of foreign currency fluctuations, sales grew 11 percent.
Sales in North America increased 7 percent year over year to $2.3 billion, and regional shipments rose 11 percent, outpacing the U.S. industry average of 6 percent. Operating profit increased 40 percent to $140 million excluding one-time charges, despite a greater mix of lower-priced products.
"We are pleased with the strong operational performance we reported in all of our regions," said chairman/CEO Jeff Fettig. "Our results reflect our lower breakeven point, continued innovation investment and our expanding global product offerings. By continuing to drive productivity improvements and leveraging our lower breakeven point, we are able to expand our operating margins and accelerate profitable growth."
Whirlpool launched the following products during the quarter:
Â· a Whirlpool
brand Vantage laundry pair, offering an LCD touchscreen interface and the industry's first USB port;
Â· a Whirlpool-brand side-by-side refrigerator with frameless "micro-etch" spill control shelves, which provide wall-to-wall storage and 25 percent more usable shelf space;
Â· a new Whirlpool-brand Cabrio high-efficiency top-load washer that uses less water but is gentler on laundry;
Â· a Whirlpool-brand tall-tub dishwasher that holds up to 12 place settings; and
Â· A KitchenAid
brand French-door refrigerator featuring contoured doors, chrome details, a full-color LCD display and a USB port.