McCormick logs record $2.5 billion sales in '04

THE BALTIMORE SUN

McCormick & Co. Inc. reported yesterday that new company acquisitions and products helped the Sparks-based spice and flavoring maker log a record $2.5 billion in sales in 2004, up 11 percent from the year before.

In 2003 and 2004, the company acquired Zatarain's, a New Orleans-style packaged food and spice maker, and C.M. van Sillevoldt BV, which sells spices under the Silvo brand in the Netherlands and under the India brand in Belgium, among others. They contributed 13 percent of sales in the past year, the company said.

The sales meant net income of $214.5 million, or diluted earnings per share of $1.52, last year, compared with net income of $210.8 million, or $1.48 per diluted share, in 2003.

For its fiscal fourth quarter that ended Nov. 30, the company reported $87.4 million in net income, or 62 cents a diluted share, compared with $84.4 million in net income, or 59 cents a diluted share, in the corresponding quarter the year before.

The company missed analysts' consensus estimate of 66 cents a share for the quarter. That, and a one-time accounting adjustment that decreased operating income by $6 million in the fourth quarter, contributed to a drop in McCormick shares of $2.35. The stock closed yesterday at $36 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Sales were a highlight of the quarter and year, said R. Bentley Offutt, an analyst with Offutt Securities.

"To sum up, their results were on target at $1.52," in per share earnings for the year, he said. "And sales increased 11 percent, which is above their normal long-term target."

Robert J. Lawless, chairman, president and chief executive officer, said the company will continue to look for ways to cut costs and continue to spend the savings on such things as more acquisitions and marketing.

"We feel pretty good about the year," Lawless said. "In 2005, our continuing focus will be on sales growth."

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