January 30, 2008 / 8:26 PM / in 10 years

UPDATE 2-Sealed Air 4th-qtr profit falls, but beats view

(Adds CFO comments, updates share price move)

NEW YORK, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Food and protective packaging maker Sealed Air Corp (SEE.N) reported lower quarterly earnings on Wednesday, hurt by high raw material and energy costs, but its results beat expectations and its shares rose 4 percent.

The Bubble Wrap maker said net income was $79.7 million, or 43 cents a share, down from $83.3 million, or 45 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, the company earned 45 cents a share, down from 46 cents a year earlier but above the average Wall Street forecast of 44 cents, according to Reuters Estimates.

Revenue rose 9 percent to $1.25 billion, spurred by strong sales from its food packaging business.

“While volume growth was expectedly soft in protective packaging, strength in food and food solutions more than offset weakness in protective,” Wachovia analyst Ghansham Panjabi said in a note to clients.

Panjabi also noted that the company had for the most part dispelled speculation about an acquisition and that this would be viewed as a positive by investors.

In its earnings report, Sealed Air said the fourth quarter included $8 million of advisory expenses “incurred prior to ceasing work on an acquisition.”

Sealed Air was reported near a deal last August to buy the packaging arm of Alcan for $4 billion to $5 billion.

Sealed Air will continue to look at acquisitions as an integral part of its growth strategy, said Chief Financial Officer David Kelsey in an interview with Reuters.

“We’re not making acquisitions simply for the sake of getting larger,” said Kelsey. “There has to be a positive benefit for our shareholders before we move forward.”

The company said it expects full-year earnings of $1.75 to $1.85 a share, excluding one-time items. Analysts, on average, have forecast $1.79.

“Certainly, its harder to grow the top line when you have a challenging economic backdrop, but we are comfortable that the businesses that we have allow us to do that,” said Kelsey.

Kelsey added that he anticipates top-line growth in 2008 to trend in line with the growth achieved in 2007.

Sealed Air shares were up $1.02 to $25.05 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Euan Rocha; Editing by Brian Moss and John Wallace)

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