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2006 profit, $36.3M, sets third yearly record in row

Boosted by its blossoming grain and ethanol division, where revenues more than doubled, The Andersons Inc. said yesterday its profit last year was a record $36.3 million.

That's up 39 percent from the year before and is the third consecutive annual earnings record.

"We've been making a lot of changes throughout the company during the past two years and they're showing some very positive results," Mike Anderson, company president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

The Maumee agribusiness, releasing its performance after the stock market closed, had a profit of $36.3 million, or $2.19 a share, on revenues of $1.5 billion. A year earlier, the profit was $26.1 million, or $1.69 a share, on revenues of $1.3 billion.

For the fourth quarter, the profit was $13.8 million, or 76 cents a share, on revenues of $463 million. For the same period a year earlier, its profit was $15.3 million, or 99 cents a share, on revenue of $384 million.

The company's stock closed at $44.60 a share but was down 48 cents in after-hours trading on Nasdaq. The firm said this week it expected profits to surpass earlier projections.

Its ethanol production, which generated so much buzz less than a year ago that the firm had to split its high-rising stock two shares for one, was a clear source of its good fortune.

The division had operating income of nearly $28 million, double that of the year before. Its Albion, Mich., ethanol plant began shipping its vehicle-fuel product late last year.

Another plant it is building in Clymers, Ind., will begin operating in the spring, and a third under construction in Greenville, Ohio, is expected to be finished by early 2008.

Ethanol is mixed with petroleum for car fuel and is cheaper, so it generated interest over the past two years when gasoline prices were around $3 a gallon. Made from corn and other botanical materials, ethanol mixed with gas is viewed as a way to cut the nation's dependence on foreign oil.

The Andersons' rail car and repair group also boosted revenues. It had proceeds of $113 million, up from $92 million in 2005, but its profit slumped to $19.5 million from $22.8 million a year earlier.

The plant nutrient unit also had a drop in operating income, but its other divisions, including its general stores, had higher operating profits.

- Jon Chavez

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