Tech Industry

Lexmark sales top company record

The printer maker also brings in 13 cents per share more in profit than analysts expected, thanks to higher demand for its printers and supplies in the fourth quarter.

Lexmark on Monday said that fourth-quarter revenue rose 13 percent and that profits beat analysts' expectations by a whopping 13 cents per share, thanks to higher demand for its printers.

The Lexington, Ky., company reported earnings of $138.8 million, or $1.05 per share. Its fourth-quarter revenue reached a company record of $1.37 billion. During the same period a year ago, Lexmark posted a profit of $116.3 million, or 90 cents per share, on revenue of $1.21 billion.

On average, analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call, expected Lexmark to post earnings of 92 cents a share.

Booming sales of Lexmark's printer hardware business helped lift earnings above expectations, the manufacturer said. Revenue for its laser and inkjet printers jumped by 23 percent, year over year, to $560 million, and sales for its laser and inkjet supplies, such as ink and toner, increased by 10 percent from a year ago, reaching $716 million, Lexmark said.

Despite general economic uncertainties, the company said it's optimistic about its prospects for the current quarter.

"We had strong customer demand for our printing solutions in the fourth quarter, and we believe this positions us well for growth in the first quarter," Lexmark CEO Paul Curlander said in a statement.

"While we do see some indications of market improvement, we continue to remain cautious due to the uncertain economic environment and the potential for aggressive price competition," Curlander said. "In the first quarter of 2004, we expect a year-over-year revenue growth rate of mid- to high-single digits and earnings per share in the range of 79 to 89 cents."

Lexmark closed 2003 with revenue of $4.75 billion, up 9 percent year over year from 2002. It turned a profit of $439.2 million or $3.34 per share during 2003, up from $366.7 million or $2.79 per share in 2002.

Although Lexmark manufactures printers for other companies, most notably Dell, executives downplayed the importance of that part of its business on a conference call Monday with financial analysts and reporters. Lexmark instead focused on increasing the reach of its own brand name in the printer market, rather than contract manufacturing, they said.

The executives declined to comment on how much of its fourth-quarter revenue was generated by printers manufactured for Dell.

Addressing its goal of expanding sales, Lexmark on Monday also launched several new laser printers designed for use in small and medium-size businesses or branch offices of larger firms.

One of these was the C752L, capable of producing 20 pages per minute in color or monochrome. Prices start at $1,599, Lexmark said.

The company also unveiled the all-in-one X422 laser printer. The machine, which starts at $1,479, can print or copy up to 22 pages per minute, and can scan and fax documents.