Earnings Reports for Jan. 31

After IP warned a month ago of an earnings shortfall, the average consensus of analysts polled by First Call/Thomson Financial was lowered from 44 cents to 30 cents per share.

Fourth-quarter net sales were $7.2 billion, compared with $6.3 billion for the same period in 1999.

John Dillon, chairman and chief executive officer, said the slowing economy and rising energy costs occurred when the weather turns colder and demand drops for lumber and other wood products.

"As demand fell, we maintained our commitment to keep our production in line with customer orders, which negatively impacted overall sales," he said. "While many of these factors are continuing into the opening months of 2001, the steps we are taking will lead to a stronger International Paper for the long term."

International Paper said it has nearly completed its previously announced plan to adjust capacity as the wood products industry continues to battle lower demand and higher energy costs.

The company has closed its Mobile, Ala. and Camden, Ark. mills, and completed the downsizing of the Courtland, Ala. mill. The closure of the Lockhaven, Pa. mill is proceeding on schedule, IP said.

It also said asset sales are progressing rapidly as International Paper focuses on its three core businesses — paper, packaging and forest products. The company has increased its asset sales target to $5 billion, including timberlands, to be completed by the end of 2001.

It said it aims to reduce capital spending to $1.2 billion in the year 2001, which is about 60 percent of depreciation and amortization. The capital expenditure program in 2001 is 20 percent below the $1.4 billion spent in the year 2000, it said.

International Paper makes paper, packaging and wood and building products, as well as being the largest private forest landowner in the world. It has operations in nearly 50 countries, employs more than 117,000 people and exports its products to more than 130 nations. BACK TO TOP

Mad Cow Takes a Bite out of McDonald's

Fast food giant McDonald's said today its fourth-quarter earnings fell 7 percent as an outbreak of mad cow disease in Europe pushed the region's sales down 10 percent and threatened to weaken the company's first quarter results.

Net income at the Oak Brook, Ill.-based hamburger maker, the largest restaurant company in the world, fell to $452 million, or 34 cents a share, from $486.2 million, or 35 cents a share, a year earlier. McDonald's was expected to earn 35 cents a share, according to a recent poll of analysts by First Call/Thomson Financial.

McDonald's, which operates nearly 5,500 restaurants in Europe, its second-largest market behind the United States, has since November seen sales erode amid an outbreak of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, on the continent.

BSE is a chronic degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system of cattle and is believed to be contracted through feed containing animal by-products. It has been linked to a similar brain-wasting disease in humans.

CEO Jack Greenberg said in a statement that he expects a difficult first quarter of 2001 due to continued mad cow concerns, tough comparisons from last year, and an extra trading day in 2000.

"We expect the first quarter to be very challenging, due to outstanding results and an extra trading day in 2000, and continuing consumer confidence issues about European beef," he said.

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