Kimberly-Clark reports lower fourth-quarter profit

Monday, January 24th 2005, 9:28 am
By: News On 6

DALLAS (AP) _ Kimberly-Clark Corp., the paper products company that makes Kleenex tissues and Huggies diapers, said Monday its fourth-quarter profit fell 3 percent as tough competition dragged down prices of diapers and trainings pants.

But the results beat Wall Street's expectations and the company also plans to boost its dividend 12.5 percent in April and buy back at least $1 billion in stock this year.

Its shares were up 59 cents at $64.37 in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Kimberly-Clark, which was formerly headquartered at Neenah, Wis., and still has operations in Wisconsin, earned $445.3 million, or 91 cents per share, in the October-December period, compared to $459.5 million or 91 cents per share a year earlier.

Excluding results from a paper unit that Kimberly-Clark spun off in November, the company said it would have earned 92 cents per share compared to 88 cents per share a year earlier.

Analysts had expected 90 cents per share, according to a survey by Thomson First Call.

Revenue rose nearly 8 percent, to $3.90 billion from $3.62 billion a year earlier and above the $3.85 billion analysts had predicted.

Kimberly-Clark said average selling prices of its diapers and training pants fell by 4 percent in North America and Europe, offsetting increases in the amount of goods sold.

Chairman and chief executive Thomas Falk said the company expected first-quarter earnings of 92 cents to 94 cents per share and 2005 earnings of $3.70 to $3.85 per share, slightly above 2004 levels. Analysts were looking for 94 cents per share in the January-March quarter and $3.81 per share for 2005.

The Irving-based company plans to increase marketing spending in the first quarter to support the launch of new products. It also expects higher prices for fiber and oil-based raw materials, he said.

For all of 2004, the company earned $1.80 billion. or $3.61 per share, on sales of $15.08 billion, compared to earnings of $1.69 billion, or $3.33 per share, on revenue of $14.03 billion in 2003.