Leggett Reports 4th Quarter EPS Of $.30 On Strong

Carthage, Mo, Jan. 28--Leggett & Platt Inc. said fourth-quarter net income rose 21%, despite sharply higher energy and steel costs and a weaker dollar, as sales improved across all segments of the company. The diversified manufacturer said its fourth-quarter net income advanced to $59 million, or 30 cents a share, beating the Thomson First Call estimate of 23 cents a share and the company's own forecast of 21 cents to 26 cents a share announced in October. Last year, fourth-quarter earnings were $48.9 million, or 25 cents a share. Total fourth-quarter sales climbed about 13% to $1.14 billion from $1.01 billion a year ago, as organic sales, which exclude acquisitions, rose 8.7%. New York Stock Exchange-listed shares of Leggett & Platt were halted for news and last traded at $21.70. Leggett & Platt also said it expects 2004 earnings to improve from last year, partly due to initiatives in its fixture and display businesses. Leggett & Platt expects to post earnings of $1.15 to $1.35 a share in 2004, up from $1.05 a share in 2003. The First Call mean estimate for the year is $1.23. Leggett & Platt, which makes products used in home furnishings, said earnings growth will be heavily influenced by organic sales growth, the degree of success in recovering steel costs and improvement in its fixture and display operations. The company is targeting organic sales growth of 3% to 8% for 2004. Leggett & Platt expects to benefit from the price increases it implemented in October to recover higher steel costs. Leggett & Platt anticipates first-quarter earnings of 26 cents to 31 cents a share, up from last year's 25 cents a share. The company's guidance brackets Wall Street's mean estimate of 28 cents a share. The company also expects first-quarter sales growth of about 10% from last year, which implies sales of about $1.14 billion based on the $1.04 billion generated a year ago.

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