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 trimmed 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.
Fourth-quarter product launches included the Whirlpool Cabrio Platinum laundry pair, a CEE Tier 3-rated top-load washer and high-efficiency dryer that use up to 75 percent less water and up to 79 percent less energy than a conventional top-load washer and dryer pair; a KitchenAid- branded 13-cup food processor; and ready-to-assemble cabinets under the Gladiator GarageWorks brand.
“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.”