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Kimberly-Clark net income off nearly $100 million

SHARE Kimberly-Clark net income off nearly $100 million

DALLAS — Kimberly-Clark Corp. said Thursday that fourth-quarter net income fell 21 percent as the maker of Huggies diapers and Kleenex tissue closed five plants and laid off 1,400 workers.

Net income fell to $358.3 million, or 68 cents per share, from $455.7 million, or 85 cents per share, a year earlier.

The Irving-based company said sales rose 2 percent to $3.67 billion on higher sales of tissues. But sales to commercial customers, such as hotels and office buildings, continued to sag, falling 4.1 percent.

The company, which recorded $118 million in pretax charges, equal to 14 cents per share in earnings, makes Huggies at a plant in Ogden.

Kimberly-Clark also recorded a $17 million charge to cover an arbitration ruling in a dispute over the closure of a pulp mill in Mobile, Ala., in 1999. A second arbitration ruling is expected at the end of January, the company said.

Excluding the plant closings and other charges, the paper-goods company said its operating profit slipped 8.5 percent, to $632.1 million, or 82 cents per share, from $690.7 million, or 87 cents per share a year earlier.

On that basis, it beat Wall Street's expectations. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial/First Call had forecast earnings of 80 cents per share.

Kimberly-Clark said European sales rose sharply, especially for its Andrex and Scottex bathroom tissue lines, and so did sales in Asia.

In North America, sales of consumer tissue products rose 2 percent, led by higher sales of Scott paper towels and Huggies baby wipes.