Whirlpool 3Q Earnings Drop

Plea deal related to price-fixing charges pulled Whirlpool Corp.'s third-quarter net income down 9 percent, but its results surpassed Wall Street's view.

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- A plea deal related to price-fixing charges pulled Whirlpool Corp.'s third-quarter net income down 9 percent, but its results surpassed Wall Street's view.

Whirlpool, which makes its namesake brand along with Maytag, KitchenAid and Jenn-Air products, maintained its full-year earnings outlook on Wednesday.

The company's stock gained 48 cents to $85 in premarket trading.

Earnings fell to $79 million, or $1.02 per share, for the three months ended Sept. 30. A year earlier, net income was $87 million, or $1.15 per share.

Whirlpool's net income was dragged down by $1.20 per share because of the plea deals. The U.S. Justice Department said in September that Whirlpool, the world's biggest appliance maker, and Japanese electronics giant Panasonic Corp. conspired to fix the prices of refrigerant compressors. A subsidiary of Whirlpool and Panasonic agreed to plead guilty and pay more than $140 million in criminal fines for their roles in the scheme.

Adjusted earnings were $2.22 per share. That beat the $1.76 per share that analysts polled by Thomson Reuters forecast. These estimates usually take out one-time charges.

Revenue was nearly flat at $4.52 billion even as sales fell in North America and Europe. The Benton Harbor, Mich., company benefited from sales increases in Latin America and Asia.

The results surpassed Wall Street's expectations for revenue of $4.49 billion.

"As expected, we faced a challenging environment during the quarter which resulted in a significant slowing in sales growth compared to the first half of the year," Chairman and CEO Jeff Fettig said in a statement.

U.S. shipments of major appliances declined 3 percent in the quarter. Whirlpool lowered its forecast for the year, saying it now expects U.S. shipments to climb about 3 percent. It previously predicted a 5 percent increase.

U.S. demand for Whirlpool's washers, dryers and other appliances was hurt by the recession but began to pick up earlier in the year because of federal rebates for energy-efficient appliances. The federal home buyer tax credit of up to $8,000 that helped spur home sales in the first half of the year also may have helped appliance makers, as people were more likely to buy appliances when they were moving into a new house.

With the tax credit expired, Whirlpool continues to face challenges with a soft housing market and high unemployment levels.

"Whether demand has slowed as a result of Mortgage-Gate (allegations that mortgage lenders cut corners on foreclosures), the lag effect associated with soft mid-year housing data, or less impetus on the part of the consumer to buy big-ticket appliances absent a tax credit, Whirlpool looks to be in a downdraft in the U.S.," Brian Sozzi of Wall Street Strategies Inc. wrote in a client note.

Whirlpool said its quarterly results were hurt by increased material costs and lower selling prices, but somewhat offset that by cutting costs and improving productivity.

Whirlpool still anticipates 2010 adjusted earnings between $9.56 and $10.06 per share.

Whirlpool has 67 manufacturing plants and technology research centers globally.

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