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Strong volume growth produced over $1.2 billion in sales for The Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co.'s fourth quarter and pushed global annual sales up 13 percent to nearly $4.7 billion, setting a new record for the chewing gum giant.
Inclusive of restructuring and options expense, fully diluted net earnings per share were $1.90 for the year, up almost 4 percent from 2005, and stood at 46 cents per share for the quarter, up 39 percent from a year ago.
"We delivered solid results overall in 2006 and demonstrated the strength of our business," said Bill Wrigley, Jr., executive chairman. "Excluding one-time restructuring charges and option costs, we delivered earnings per share growth in the 9 to 11 percent range for the seventh consecutive year, and we did so with double-digit sales and volume growth while completing the integration of a major acquisition, realigning our supply chain, and addressing increased competition in some key geographies."
Sales increases were primarily driven by worldwide shipment growth of 15 percent for the full year and 8 percent for the fourth quarter. The full-year increase results from a combination of worldwide organic volume growth and six months of incremental sales from acquired confectionery brands, primarily in North America, while the fourth-quarter volume increase reflects the solid performance of Wrigley's gum and confectionery business around the world.
North America net sales for 2006 were $1.75 billion, an increase of $217 million or 14 percent from 2005. Incremental shipments from the new confectionery brands for the first six months of 2006 accounted for the lion's share of the increase. The balance came from Wrigley's U.S. core gum and mint business, which grew by 3 percent, led by sugar-free gum, especially Orbit, which recently became the number-one gum brand in the United states, and Doublemint Twins mints.
Spanning the fourth quarter of 2006 and the first quarter of 2007, Wrigley has launched or will be launching a number of new products around the world. In the U.S., Wrigley has introduced Dark Chocolate Dipped Altoids, Hubba Bubba Sour Gummi Tape, and two varieties of Life Savers Fruit Tarts. U.S. gum introductions include Mojito Mint and Raspberry Mint Orbit, micro mint and flavor infused Eclipse Fusion in Spearmint Melon and Peppermint Berry, as well as Orbit White Bubblemint in the Big-E bottle.