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Whirlpool sees "flat to slightly improving" demand in 2012

Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool's CEO Jeff Fettig forecast industry demand in 2012 as "flat to slightly improving." 

The company posted sales of $4.9 billion in the fourth quarter, down slightly from $5.0 billion. But fourth-quarter net earnings increased to $205 million, compared with net earnings of $171 million during the same period last year.

The North America region reported operating profit of $202 million for the quarter compared with $53 million in the previous year.

"As we enter 2012, we are executing strong actions to continue to improve operating margins through our cost and capacity reduction initiatives, ongoing productivity programs and previously announced price increases," Fettig said.  "We exit 2011 with improving product price/mix, significantly lower inventory levels and strong new product innovation. These initiatives are the key drivers to improving our operating margins throughout 2012."

Full-year 2011 sales reached $18.7 billion, up 2% from the prior year.  Net earnings for the year were $390 million, down from $619 million in 2010.

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