Whirlpool cutting 5,000 jobs-To Close Fort Smith Plant

Steady Eddie

Veteran Expediter
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Appliance maker Whirlpool Corp. plans to cut 5,000 jobs, about 10 per cent of its workforce in North America and Europe, as it faces soft demand and higher costs for materials.

The world's biggest appliance maker also on Friday cut its 2011 earnings outlook drastically and reported third-quarter results that missed expectations, hurt by higher costs and a slowdown in emerging markets. Shares fell 12 per cent in midday trading.

The company, whose brands include Maytag and KitchenAid, has, like other appliance makers, been squeezed by soft U.S. demand since the recession and rising costs for materials such as steel and copper.

Due to its size, Whirlpool's performance provides a window on the economy because it indicates whether consumers are comfortable spending on big-ticket items.

The Canadian operation, Whirlpool Canada LP of Mississauga, Ont., generates more than $1 billion in revenue and has about 500 employees. Its brands also include Inglis, Estate amd Roper.

Whirlpool jobs to be cut are mostly in North America and Europe. They include 1,200 salaried positions and the closing of the company's Fort Smith, Ark., plant.

A representative for the Canadian division did not say how domestic operations would be impacted.

"There are cuts across all North American regions and we are not providing site specific information," Kristine Vernier said in an email.

Whirlpool has raised prices to combat higher costs, but demand for items like refrigerators and washing machines remains tight. Whirlpool is also facing discount pressure from competitors.

To offset slowing North American sales, Whirlpool has turned to emerging markets. But the company said Friday that sales have slowed there, too. The company revised its demand forecast globally. It now expects demand to decline 3 per cent to 5 per cent in North America, in 2011, down from a 1 per cent to 2 per cent prior decline forecast.

It expects flat demand in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, from prior expectations of a 1 per cent to 2 per cent rise in demand.

In Latin America, it now expects demand to be flat to up 5 per cent, from prior expectations of a 5 per cent to 10 per cent increase. And in Asia it expects demand to rise 2 per cent to 4 per cent from earlier expectations of a 4 per cent to 6 per cent increase.

Steep costs and the dour global economy are affecting the entire appliance industry. Swedish appliance maker Electrolux said Friday that its third-quarter net income fell 39 per cent and also cut its forecast for demand in North American and Europe for the year.

Whirlpool said the Fort Smith plant shutdown will affect 884 hourly workers and 90 salaried employees. An additional 800 workers were on layoff from the factory and on a recall list.

Whirlpool will also relocate dishwasher production from Neunkirchen, Germany, to Poland in January 2012.

The company expects the moves will save $400 million by the end of 2013. They'll cost $500 million in restructuring costs however, which will be recorded over the next three years, including a $105 million charge in the fourth quarter, $280 million charge in 2012 and $115 million charge in 2013.

Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool's third-quarter net income more than doubled to $177 million, or $2.27 per share, from $79 million, or $1.02 per share. Adjusted earnings of $2.35 per share fell short of analyst expectations for $2.73 per share.

Revenue rose 2 per cent to $4.63 billion, short of expectations for $4.74 billion.

"Our results were negatively impacted by recessionary demand levels in developed countries, a slowdown in emerging markets and high levels of inflation in material costs," CEO Jeff Fettig said.

Unit shipments fell in all regions except Asia, where they rose 4 per cent.

In North America, revenue fell 2 per cent to $2.4 billion, and in Latin America, revenue rose 8 per cent to $1.2 billion.

The company now expects 2011 net income will be $4.75 to $5.25 per share. Its prior guidance was net income would be at the low end of a range between $7.25 and $8.25 per share.

Separately, Whirlpool has complained to authorities that some companies, including Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, have been selling appliances at less than fair value in the U.S., a practice known as dumping. Whirlpool said the Commerce Department issued a preliminary determination that the companies are violating international trade laws. The investigation is ongoing.

Whirlpool's stock fell US$7.19, or 11.9 per cent, to $53.28 in Friday trading. The stock has already sunk 32 per cent this year.

With files from The Canadian Press

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Expert Expediter
What a blow to ANY city in todays economy, notice the move from Germany to Poland, less and less labor costs, soon thell move to Mogadishu where they can pay 25 cents a day to the three finger labor kids....I used to deliver to several of there plants and Im sure the communitys have all felt a great loss. While stock profits rise and the CEOs and such get bonuses the working poor are left to fend with closed buildings and warehouses and lost city taxes...