* Q4 adj EPS 22 cts vs. Street 23 cts
* Revenue rises 2.3 percent
* Shares drop 6.5 percent (Recasts, adds analyst comment, byline, stock movement)
By Ernest Scheyder
NEW YORK, Jan 27 (Reuters) - MeadWestvaco Corp MWV.N posted a lower-than-expected fourth-quarter profit on Wednesday and said a strong economic recovery remains uncertain for 2010, sending shares of the packaging maker down 6.5 percent.
The Glen Allen, Virginia-based company makes paperboard, pumps for consumer goods, packaging and many other products that primarily go into consumer applications. Demand for its products has ebbed and flowed since the recession began, making long-term planning difficult for executives.
“MeadWestvaco performed well in what remained a difficult economic environment during 2009,” Chief Executive John Luke said in a statement, saying emerging economies will be areas of growth in 2010.
Yet while the company is seeing some positive signs from customers, “no one expects a dramatic recovery in the near future,” President Jim Buzzard said on a conference call with investors.
Cost cuts did help boost results during the period, but Wall Street has been increasingly wary in recent quarters of income generated from anything but sales.
For the period the company posted net income of $51 million, or 29 cents per share, compared with a loss of $16 million, or 9 cents per share, in the year-ago period.
Excluding one-time items, the company posted profit of 22 cents per share. By that measure, analysts expected earnings of 23 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue rose 2.3 percent to $1.64 billion. Analysts expected $1.52 billion in revenue.
While profit did miss expectations, Sterne Agee analyst Mark Connelly praised the company’s “good operating performance” and kept a “buy” rating on the stock.
Connelly noted that the company’s consumer solutions unit has not been severely affected by the recession due to greater demand for pumps from soap makers during the swine flu season.
Shares fell $1.74, or 6.5 percent, to $24.86 in morning trading. The stock has traded between $7.53 and $29.74 in the past 52 weeks.
Reporting by Ernest Scheyder, editing by Dave Zimmerman