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Polaroid Ends Difficult Year With $75m Loss
Reuters
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Polaroid Corp. on Thursday reported a 1998 fourth-quarter loss of more than $75 million, closing out a difficult year for the struggling instant camera maker.

Chairman and Chief Executive Gary DiCamillo called the results disappointing but said in a statement, "We have taken the hard decisions necessary to turn Polaroid around and are now positioned for profitable growth based on our new-products strategy." Polaroid reported a fourth-quarter net loss of $75.5 million, or $1.72 per share, including restructuring charges and write-offs of $93.5 million.

The year-earlier net loss was $202.8 million, or $4.51 per diluted share, after special charges.

Fourth-quarter operating profits totaled $11.1 million, down sharply from $66.2 million in the 1997 fourth quarter.

Worldwide sales were $541.8 million, down 11 percent from $607.6 million a year earlier.

U.S. sales fell about 6 percent; international sales were down about 16 percent because of lower sales in Russia, other emerging markets and some developed markets.

"This is not good," said Ulysses Yannas, an analyst at Mercer, Bokert, Buckman & Reid in New York. "It was a bad year, so they were ... writing off everything they can." Polaroid shares have fallen more than 67 percent since July 1997. They were down 44 cents at $18.19 in Thursday morning trade.

For all of 1998, Polaroid's worldwide sales were $1.8 billion, down 14 percent from $2.1 billion in 1997. It was the second straight year of lower sales.

Polaroid said the fourth-quarter operating results reflected its program to cut excess inventory at retail outlets, "unfavorable variances caused by reduced manufacturing volumes," new-product start-up costs, and lower international sales.

Those factors were partly offset by the company's expanded restructuring program, aimed at cutting another 700 jobs, or about 7 percent of its workforce. The company said in late 1997 that it would cut 1,800 jobs and trim costs by $120 million.

Polaroid said it had largely achieved its goal of breaking even in its digital business by the end of 1998.

Last week photography giant Eastman Kodak Co. also reported disappointing earnings.

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