W.R. Grace & Co. reports loss in 1Q, blames economy

April 23, 2003|By Andrea K. Walker | Andrea K. Walker,SUN STAFF

W.R. Grace & Co. reported a loss in its first quarter as it faced a weak economy, escalating oil prices and financial uncertainties brought on by the war in Iraq.

The Columbia chemical maker posted a $2.3 million loss, or 4 cents per share, for the quarter ending March 31. The company had net income of $12.4 million, or 19 cents a share, in the corresponding period the year before.

"From a profit point of view it was a difficult quarter," said Robert M. Tarola, Grace's chief financial officer.

However, sales for the quarter increased 7.7 percent, to $444.8 million from $412.9 million last year.

"We're pleased to see that revenue was up fairly significantly in what we viewed was a difficult quarter economically for many global companies," Tarola said.

Tarola said an increase in oil prices pushed up the company's transportation costs and cost it more to buy raw materials that stem from petroleum-based products. The company also had added pension expenses because of poor returns on stock investments.

A weak U.S. dollar accounted for 6.1 percent of the company's 7.7 percent increase in sales. The company also began to see the benefits of acquisitions last year of companies in Sweden and Japan.

Grace, which is operating under bankruptcy, also had $2.7 million in bankruptcy costs for the quarter.

Its stock closed at $2.17 yesterday, up 6 cents.

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