Benton Harbor, Mich. – Cost
reductions, productivity initiatives and a 13 percent spike in sales to $4.9
billion pushed Whirlpool’s fourth-quarter profits up 111 percent to $95
Whirlpool said the favorable factors
were partially offset by a higher mix of lower-priced products, and that net earnings
for the three-month period, ended Dec. 31, also included a $46 million accrual
stemming from a collection dispute. In addition, sales rose only 5 percent when
favorable foreign exchange fluctuations are excluded.
For the full year, net earnings fell
21.5 percent to $328 million and sales declined 9.6 percent to $17.1 billion.
“In 2009 we significantly improved
our global cost structure and operating performance despite a substantial decline
in global demand levels,” chairman/CEO Jeff Fettig said in a statement. “In
addition, we generated record free cash flow [of $1.1 billion] and strengthened
our financial position. I am pleased with our execution in this challenging
environment, and we look to build upon our progress in 2010.”
Working capital, particularly due to
reduced inventory balances, was a significant source of cash flow during the
year, the company said.
In North America, fourth-quarter
sales increased 4 percent to $2.6 billion while unit shipments increased 8
percent, exceeding total U.S. industry shipments of 6 percent.
Operating profit was $136 million
compared to a loss of $20 million for the year-ago period, also due largely to cost
reductions, productivity initiatives and increased sales volume, Whirlpool
said. Those factors were also partially offset by a lower product price/mix.
Based on the current economic
outlook, the company expects full-year 2010 U.S. industry unit shipments to
increase between 2 percent and 4 percent.
“We have positioned the company to
deliver strong earnings growth despite a continued challenging economic backdrop
in the developed economies,” Fettig noted. “Cost reduction, cash-flow
generation and balanced market execution remain key operating priorities. These
efforts, combined with our global brand portfolio, innovative product offerings
and the value of innovation we bring to consumers, will provide us with growth
opportunities throughout the year.”