Positive brand-mix management and record productivity levels contributed to higher North American sales and profit at Whirlpool in the fourth quarter.
The major appliance maker reported a 7.6 percent increase in fourth-quarter North American revenue, to $2.1 billion, while operating income improved 9 percent in the three months, despite the negative effects of currency and a significant increase in U.S. pension costs, compared with the prior-year period.
Whirlpool noted that industry shipments of majaps increased 8.1 percent in the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, compared with the same three months in 2002, an improvement driven by the continued strength of consumer spending. The company expects U.S. majap industry unit shipments in 2004 to increase 2 percent.
Strong sales, market share gains and a weak dollar helped Whirlpool move into the black for the fourth quarter, with consolidated three-month net earnings hitting $125 million, compared with a net loss of $29 million year-on-year. The 2002 fourth quarter loss included a $43 million charge.
Consolidated fourth-quarter sales reached $3.4 billion, up 14 percent from the $2.9 billion recorded in the same period a year earlier.
"Our consolidated global businesses delivered solid earnings," said David Whitwam, chairman/CEO.
For the 12 months, Whirlpool consolidated sales reached $12.2 billion, a bit better than a 10 percent increase over the $11 billion reported in 2002.
The company also moved into the black for the year, taking down $414 million in net earnings for the 12 months, compared with a net loss of $394 million last year.