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Whirlpool 1Q profit drops on weakening demand

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[April 27, 2009]  BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- Whirlpool Corp., the world's largest manufacturer and marketer of major home appliances, said Monday its first-quarter profit fell 28 percent on softening consumer demand and the stronger dollar, but the results beat Wall Street's expectations.

Earnings were boosted by cost-reduction and productivity initiatives, Whirlpool said, but those gains were partially offset by higher material costs and substantially lower global sales and production volumes.

Earnings slid to $68 million, or 91 cents per share, in the three months ended March 31, down from $94 million, or $1.22 per share, a year earlier.

The company, whose brands also include Maytag and KitchenAid, saidsales dropped 23 percent to $3.57 billion because its products were more expensive to overseas customers.

Thomson Reuters said its survey of five analysts showed they expected, on average, a loss of 18 cents per share on sales of $3.95 billion. The analyst estimates typically exclude one-time items and the earnings estimates ranged from a profit of 19 cents to a loss of 68 cents.

Whirlpool maintained its outlook for a 2009 profit of $3 to $4 per share, above analysts' expectations for full-year earnings of $2.78 per share.

"As we had previously anticipated, global macroeconomic factors have remained negative and volatile during the first quarter," said Jeff M. Fettig, chairman and chief executive.

The Benton Harbor-based company said it expects 2009 U.S. industry unit shipments to decline 10 percent to 12 percent from 2008 levels, compared with its previous estimate of a 10 percent decline.

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It reported lower net sales in each of its regions. Whirlpool North America's sales of $2.1 billion were down 20 percent from the first quarter of 2008. Whirlpool Europe reported sales of $696 million, down 26 percent, while sales for Whirlpool Latin America dropped 26 percent to $689 million and for Whirlpool Asia fell 13 percent to $120 million.


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