PITTSBURGH (AP) ¿ Matthews International Corp., which makes memorial plaques, caskets and other products for the funeral industry, said Thursday its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings fell 23 percent, mostly due to charges related to a consolidation of some production plants. But Matthews also said that sales were hurt as more customers continued to choose less-expensive products. The company earned $15.6 million, or 52 cents per share, compared with $20.4 million, or 65 cents per share, in the fiscal fourth-quarter a year ago. Earnings for the fourth quarter ended Sept. 30 included pretax charges of about $3.3 million, or 7 cents per share, mostly due to severance and other costs related to the consolidation of production plants within the company's bronze segment, costs related to operational improvements in several other units and some write-downs on the value of certain assets. Revenue slid 8.7 percent to $200.2 million, from $219.2 million in the prior-year period. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, who generally exclude one-time gains and losses in their estimates, forecast a profit of 58 cents per share on $192 million in sales.
"The global economic environment continued to impact the operating results of all of our businesses in the fourth quarter," President and CEO Joseph C. Bartolacci said in a statement. "Compared to a year ago, revenues were lower in almost all of our segments, reflecting a decline in unit volumes and an unfavorable change in product mix as many customers were choosing lower-priced products. In addition, our Bronze and Casket segments were impacted by another decline in the U.S. casketed death rates compared to the fourth fiscal quarter last year." For the full-year, the company earned $57.7 million, or $1.90 per share, down 27 percent from $79.5 million, or $2.55 per share, a year earlier. The current fiscal year includes charges of $16.5 million, or 35 cents per share. Sales fell 4.6 percent to $780.9 million from $818.6 million in the prior fiscal year. Shares rose 23 cents to $36.50 in aftermarket trading after closing down 91 cents, or 2.5 percent, at $36.27 in the regular session Thursday.