UFPI Posts Modest Quarter

    GRAND RAPIDS — Despite an 11 percent decrease in the lumber market, Universal Forest Products Inc. posted first-quarter net sales of $356 million, a modest 4 percent increase over net sales of $342 million reported for the same period last year.

    Diluted earnings per share for the quarter were 25 cents, representing a 22 percent decrease over per share earnings of 32 cents for the year-ago period.

    In addition to the soft lumber market, the weak economy and the war in Iraq, the company attributed the decrease in net earnings to an unusually harsh winter.

    Universal plants across the country lost 154 production days in the first quarter due to weather conditions, compared to 11 lost production days in 2002’s first quarter, according to the company. 

    First quarter sales by market were:

    • $157 million in the Do-It-Yourself/retail market, up 7 percent over last year
    • $77 million in the site-built construction market, an increase of 12 percent over 2002
    • $65 million in the industrial market, up 10 percent over last year
    • $57 million in the manufactured housing market, a 15 percent decrease from 2002 first quarter sales.

    CEO William Currie said Universal controlled what it could and had stronger than expected results given the weather and economic conditions.

    “Although inclement winter weather hit us hard and made February one of the weakest months in Universal’s history, the outlook for the year is positive,” he said.

    March, however, proved to be an “excellent month,” with sales and profits outpacing March 2002’s strong performance, which the company believes is “an indication of what lies ahead,” Currie said.

    “For this reason we’re continuing to target annual sales and diluted earnings per share growth of 7 percent to 12 percent for 2003.”

    UFPI stock has gone from about $16 two years ago at this time, to $28 in May of 2002, back to its current $16 to $17 range.

    The company, which employs about 7,000 people, reports about $1.6 billion in sales during the fiscal year ended Dec. 28, which it said was an increase of about 7.2 percent over the preceding year.  

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