FMC Corp. said that fourth-quarter earnings rose sharply year-over-year due to a hefty tax adjustment gain, as well as higher selling prices in the company's industrial chemicals business.

Net income rose to $94.5 million, or $2.47 per share, from $6.3 million a year ago. The latest quarter includes gains that added $1.59 to profit per share, compared with the 2003 period which included charges of 58 cents per share. Excluding these items, the company earned 88 cents per share in the latest quarter, up from 76 cents last year.

Revenue edged up to $513.7 million from $506.9 million. Agricultural products revenue was $173 million, down 5 percent largely in insecticides, driven by a shift in North America demand into the first quarter of 2005, closer to the time of use by the farmer, and weaker sales in Asia. Higher sales in Brazil, due to a continued strong farm economy, partially offset the overall sales decline.

The company said specialty chemicals revenue rose 2 percent to $126.9 million, driven by the BioPolymer business. Sales in the lithium business were relatively flat as the timing of demand in the battery market offset steady growth in the polymer and pharmaceutical synthesis markets.

Looking ahead, FMC said that based on a strong early season in Brazil, the positive impact of the fourth-quarter shift in North America agricultural demand and the recovery in industrial chemicals, the company expects to exceed last year's first-quarter results by a considerable margin, with operating earnings coming in at 55 cents to 65 cents per share.

FMC also forecasts continued double-digit growth in operating earnings will result in 2005 profit of $3.70 to $3.90 per share. The company expect to reduce its debt by about $140 million during 2005.

Source: Company Release