Mead

(MEA)

reported third-quarter earnings that were in line with analysts' expectations, despite softening demand and prices for paper and containerboard.

The paper and forest products company, which last month announced it would close plants in Atlanta, Michigan and Indiana, earned $58.3 million, or 57 cents a share, up from $50.8 million, or 48 cents a share, for the same period last year, meeting the 11-analyst estimate produced by

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Excluding the impact of special items, earnings rose to $62.4 million, or 61 cents a share, from $49.1 million, or 46 cents a share.

Sales for the quarter rose to $1.15 billion from $982 million in 1999, reflecting the increased sales from acquisitions in the consumer office products segment and higher prices for coated paper and corrugating medium.