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Champion International Profits Plummet
STAMFORD — Champion International Inc., a leading paper and wood products company, said on Tuesday its 1998 fourth-quarter profits plummeted 74 percent from a year earlier due to low prices.

Champion earned $12 million, or 13 cents a share, in the quarter, before special items, compared with $32 million, or 34 cents a share, in the same period a year ago.

Including special charges, the company had a loss of 7 cents a share for the quarter.

Wall Street analysts had expected the company to report a loss of 1 cent a share, according to First Call Corp., which tracks such forecasts.

Champion's stock took a hit in morning activity Tuesday following the disappointing earnings news. The shares were off $1.69 at $38.81 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The Stamford, Conn.-based company blamed its poor results on low prices for most paper grades and for wood pulp. Low prices and high inventories have plagued the industry all year.

"It is essential that we continue our efforts to reduce our manufacturing costs and balance production with customer demand," Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard Olson said in a news release.

"We are watching the world economic situation very closely, and, therefore, we are approaching 1999 with caution," he said.

Champion's paper segment saw a 65 percent decline in operating earnings in the fourth quarter, to $44 million from $98 million a year earlier.

While the company's wood products segment had a 53 percent rise in earnings from a year earlier, to $23 million, profits were down from the third quarter.

Special items in 1998, which were recorded in the fourth quarter, consisted of an after-tax charge of $49 million for additional costs associated with the divestiture of the company's nonstrategic product segments, and an after-tax benefit of $30 million from the reversal of reserves that are no longer required.

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