Minerals Technologies Inc. ( NYSE: MTX) today reported net income of $15.4 million, or $0.82 per share, for the first quarter 2010, compared with $4.1 million, or $0.22 per share in the fourth quarter of 2009. Excluding special items, earnings per share were $0.85 compared with $0.62 per share in the fourth quarter of 2009.

“Our solid first quarter financial results indicate a significant improvement in earnings both sequentially, over the last three quarters, and year-over-year,” said Joseph C. Muscari, chairman and chief executive officer. “This has returned the company to the levels of performance achieved prior to the recession that were, at that time, part of a transformation of Minerals Technologies to a higher level of performance. The actions we took in late 2008 and in 2009, combined with the progressive stabilizing of business conditions in our end markets, have generated a momentum for the company and put us back on course. Those actions, which include reducing our costs and focusing on productivity gains, enabled us to leverage sales and reduce break-even levels across all of our businesses. As volumes increase we expect to benefit accordingly.”

Sequential Comparison to Fourth Quarter 2009

The company's worldwide sales in the first quarter were $253.5 million, a 1-percent sequential decline from the $256.2 million reported in the fourth quarter of 2009. Foreign exchange had an unfavorable impact on sales of approximately $4.0 million or 2 percentage points. Operating income, excluding special items, was $23.9 million, a 38-percent increase from the $17.3 million reported in the fourth quarter of 2009. As reported, income from operations was $23.0 million as compared with $4.5 million in the fourth quarter.

For the first quarter, worldwide sales in the company's Specialty Minerals segment, which consists of precipitated calcium carbonate (PCC) and Processed Minerals, were $172.1 million compared with $170.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2009, a 1-percent increase. Foreign exchange had an unfavorable impact on sequential sales growth for the quarter of approximately 1 percentage point. Income from operations, excluding special items, was $19.2 million, a 27-percent increase from the $15.1 million recorded in the fourth quarter of 2009.