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2/15/2012 6:54:00 PM
Evansville's Berry Plastics reports $12 million loss on 4Q 2011

Susan Orr, Evansville Courier & Press

Berry Plastics posted a $12 million loss last quarter, but the company’s top executive said he’s happy with the results because the company is moving in the right direction.

Evansville-based Berry manufactures a range of products including plastic containers, packaging, tapes and films. The company is not publicly traded but it does file financial reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Berry filed its most quarterly report this week.

Last quarter’s $12 million loss is an improvement over the same period a year earlier, when the company posted a loss of $69 million.

“We were very pleased with our results for the full calendar year 2011 and the quarter ending Dec. 31,” Berry Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Rich told analysts during a conference call Tuesday.

The company saw both its sales and its expenses rise as compared to a year ago.

Net sales last quarter totaled $1.14 billion, up 9 percent from the same period a year earlier. The increase came from two sources, Berry said — it saw volume growth related to last year’s acquisition of companies Rexam SBC and Filmco; and it increased the price of its products.

Partially offsetting those gains was a base volume decline of 10 percent. The company experienced “relatively weak consumer demand” last quarter, Rich said.

Berry’s cost of goods sold last quarter rose 8 percent, to $972 million. Cost of goods sold represents what a company spends on purchasing raw materials and producing finished goods.

Selling, general and administrative expenses ­— a category that includes office payroll, executive and sales salaries, sales commissions and advertising and promotion expenses — rose 11 percent, to $70 million.

Berry attributed the increase in both of these expense categories to its Rexam and Filmco acquisitions.

The company slightly reduced its long-term debt last quarter.

Long-term debt as of Dec. 31 stood at $4.5 billion, down 1 percent from the previous quarter.

“Our top priority in the company is to take down the company’s leverage,” Rich told the analysts.

Looking at the current quarter, Rich said the company is seeing a “modest but steady increase” in economic activity in North America, which represents the vast majority of the company’s business.

One challenge, Rich said, lies in the fluctuating cost of the plastic resin that Berry uses as its raw material.

The per-pound price for polyethylene butene film last year ranged from 68 cents to 79 cents, up from 62-71 cents in 2010.

Per-pound prices for polypropylene last year ranged from 78 cents to $1.08, up from 70-84 cents in 2010.

Plastic resin prices in the quarter just ended were at or near the low end of their 2011 price ranges, but the company said it expects prices to rise again.

“Our future results are sensitive to changes in these commodities markets,” Rich said.

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