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Kimberly-Clark Net Slips

The consumer products company still manages record revenue in the fourth quarter.
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suffered a small decline in fourth-quarter profit, despite record revenue.

The Dallas-based consumer products company earned $445.3 million, or 91 cents a share, vs. $459.3 million, or 91 cents a share, a year ago. On a continuing operations basis, reflecting the spinoff of Neenah Paper, the company earned 92 cents a share compared with 88 cents a share in the prior year. Sales rose 8% to $3.9 billion.

Analysts were expecting a profit of $446 million, or 90 cents a share, on revenue of $3.85 billion, according to Thomson First Call.

Sales were driven by gains at the company's health and hygiene brands, notably double-digit growth for the infant care and incontinence care sectors, which include Huggies. The weak dollar helped sales overseas.

The company, however, cited " inflation, primarily in distribution, fiber and oil-based costs."

Kimberly-Clark said it expects to deliver earnings of $3.70 to $3.85 a share in 2005 and "mid- to high-single-digit growth compared with net income from continuing operations of $3.55 in 2004."

For the first quarter, the company forecast earnings of 92 cents to 94 cents a share. "Compared with EPS from continuing operations of 88 cents last year, this would represent growth of approximately 5% to 7%," the company said.

The consensus estimates are 94 cents and $3.81, respectively.

Shares closed at $63.78 Friday.