Mueller Industries Inc.: At a Loss Over Copper Prices

Lower commodity values drag company to first loss in 18 years

Mueller Industries Inc. rode the wave of record high copper prices during the first three months of 2008 to a 45% profit increase over the year-earlier period. Fast forward to 2009, and it's a much different story for the maker of copper tube, fittings, brass rod and forgings.

The 2008 IW 50 Best Manufacturer posted its first operating loss since 1991 in the first quarter after the average copper price dropped 55.5% from the year-ago period, the company reported April 21.

For the three months ended March 28, the company's net loss totaled $2.5 million, or 7 cents per share, compared with a profit of $27.4 million, or 73 cents per share, during the same timeframe last year.

The Memphis, Tenn.-based manufacturer's net sales dropped $225 million in the first quarter from lower selling prices in the company's Plumbing & Refrigeration segment and fewer sale in Mueller's OEM division.

Mueller Industries Inc.
At A Glance

Mueller Industries Inc.
Memphis, Tenn.
Primary Industry: Primary Metals
Number of Employees: 4,086
2007 In Review
Revenue: $2.7 billion
Profit Margin: 4.28%
Sales Turnover: 1.86
Inventory Turnover: 8.81
Revenue Growth: 7.45%
Return On Assets: 9.10%
Return On Equity: 19.61%
Plumbing & Refrigeration posted operating earnings of $10.3 million on net sales of $190. 4 million, compared with first-quarter 2008 earnings of $25.1 million on net sales of $383.9 million.

The OEM segment posted a $6.3 million operating loss during the first quarter on net sales of $138.4 million, compared with operating earnings of $25.6 million on $326.2 million net sales during the same period last year.

"Business conditions were exceptionally difficult during the first quarter but improved as the quarter progressed," said Mueller Chairman Harvey Karp when earnings were released. "We do not know if the improvement will persist, but we are hopeful that it will."

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