Whirlpool up in the fourth quarter

Still seeing the benefits of its 2006 acquisition of Maytag, Whirlpool reported higher fourth-quarter earnings of $187 million, up 71.6 percent from $109 million last year. Sales for the quarter were $5.33 billion, up 7.7 percent from $4.95 billion last year.

For the full year, net earnings rose 47.8 percent to $640 million from $433 million in the previous year. Sales for 2007 were $19.4 billion, up 7.2 percent from $18.1 billion last year.

Whirlpool announced intentions last week to close plants in Tennessee and Mexico, affecting about 1,250 workers. The company said it would eliminate 500 jobs from a plant in La Vergne, Tenn., and a further 750 jobs at a plant in Reynosa, Mexico. Production of built-in refrigerators made in Tennessee will move to the company's Fort Smith, Ark., plant, which plans to add about 275 jobs by December, the company said.

Jeff Fettig, chairman and CEO of Whirlpool, credited international strength for offsetting a weaker domestic climate.

"Our performance in this environment highlights the strength of our global brands and the geographic diversity of our global operating platform," Fettig said.

Whirlpool’s North American sales fell by just under 1 percent to $3 billion, while sales in its Lat