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Libbey Inc. seeks boost from retail, food service

Net income up despite drop in global sales

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Libbey, which is coming off a solidly profitable year, hopes to turn in an even stronger 2014 by boosting retail and food service sales.

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Libbey Inc. has beefed up its sales and marketing teams in the United States and China as it looks to overcome continuing weakness in several important business segments.

On a conference call Friday, Chief Executive Officer Stephanie Streeter said the company expects to continue being affected by weakness in retail and restaurant traffic, as well as lower demand from consumers.

“In this environment we know we have to be more innovative and aggressive in our sales and marketing efforts, so we are dramatically stepping up our new-product efforts and the sales and marketing programs, especially in our advantage businesses,” she said.

Ms. Streeter said Libbey has boosted its food service sales force by 20 percent in the United States and China. The company has also added people in Mexico, Latin America, and Europe, though to a lesser extent.

Libbey is coming off a solidly profitable year and hopes to turn in an even stronger 2014.

Officials on Friday said global sales for 2013 were $818.8 million, down from $825.3 in 2012.

Libbey’s net income, however, quadrupled.

For the year, Libbey reported a profit of $28.5 million, or $1.31 per share. In 2012, Libbey reported a profit of $7 million, or 33 cents per share, though that was impacted by a $31 million loss on redemption of debt.

On an adjusted basis, Libbey said it earned $2.05 per share in 2013, versus $2.23 per share in 2012.

For the fourth quarter, Libbey’s revenue increased slightly to $221 million from $219 million. The company reported solid growth in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, as well as its U.S.-sourced business that sells flatware and dinnerware.

Business-to-business sales improved in the Americas, but retail sales plunged 10 percent in the quarter, and sales in the Asia Pacific region were also weak.

Libbey also said it took a $1.9 million hit from the furnace fire at its Toledo factory in September.

Officials warned that Libbey has been affected by the harsh winter in much of the United States, as consumers are staying away from restaurants and stores and paying more for heating. Libbey itself is dealing with that issue. Ms. Streeter said the company expects to pay up to $2 million more for natural gas in the first quarter this year than it did during the same period last year.

However, after a difficult January, she said February has been stronger. The company also looks to benefit from pricing increases in the food-service sector that take effect next month.

“Even though the first quarter will be slower than we’d like due to weather and other issues, we are cautiously optimistic about the year ahead,” Ms. Streeter said.

Shares of the company’s stock rose about 2 percent Friday to close at $23.26.

— Tyrel Linkhorn

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