06 March 2000 00:00 [Source: ICB Americas]Ecolab, which provides cleaning products and services to the institutional and industrial markets, had another record quarter and year. In the fourth quarter, its diluted earnings per share reached 32 cents, 10 percent higher than during the same quarter last year.
That was Ecolab's 20th consecutive quarter of double-digit EPS growth. Its net income hit $42 million, an 8 percent increase, on sales of $516 million, a 7 percent rise. Profits from the company's international segment and the Ecolab-Henkel joint venture in Europe nearly doubled during the quarter and boosted growth.
"Fourth quarter results were as we expected, with the exceptional international earnings rebound and Henkel-Ecolab's growth providing all the fuel needed to reach our earnings goals for 1999," says Allan L. Shuman, Ecolab's president and CEO.
"Domestic sales were also on target, as we realized good gains in our core food and beverage, pest elimination and Kay [fast-food cleaning] operations. Institutional sales rose modestly, and in line with our expectations, as we balanced international's strong performance."
For the full year, the company's earnings were up 14 percent, reaching $176 million or $1.31 per diluted share. However, the exclusion of a one-time, non-taxable gain in the third quarter of $1.5 million related to an insurance company public offering would lower EPS to $1.30, a 13 percent increase. This was on sales of $2.1 billion that were 10 percent higher than during the previous year. It was the seventh consecutive year of double-digit earnings per share growth for Ecolab.
"We are very optimistic about our prospects for 2000," says Mr. Shuman. "The underlying trends in our key domestic markets--institutional, food and beverage, pest elimination and Kay--are solid, and our newer GCS [appliance repair] and vehicle care businesses are showing excellent growth prospects."
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