American Greetings’ profit nearly doubles |

American Greetings’ profit nearly doubles

CLEVELAND – American Greetings Corp., the nation’s second-largest maker of greeting cards, reported Thursday that its profit nearly doubled in the fourth quarter on higher sales, decreased expenses and a lower tax rate.Earnings rose to $41.8 million, or 58 cents per share, in the three months ended Feb. 28 from $21.4 million, or 28 cents, the previous year. The latest results included a loss of 12 cents per share from the sale of its South African business during the period.Net sales totaled $509.3 million, up 5 percent from $485.5 million a year earlier.The company also said its latest earnings rose in part because of a lower tax rate and a reduction in shares.The company had expected a profit of 44 cents to 59 cents per share, while analysts polled by Thomson Financial expected 47 cents.Its shares fell $1.10, or 5 percent, to $20.97 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.Chief Executive Zev Weiss said as the company celebrates its 100th year, it plans to spend $75 million to improve its ability to help consumers express themselves.”The expenditures will enhance both our product, such as the quality of our cards, and the merchandising of that product, such as the fixtures on which the product is displayed,” he said.Full-year income fell 11 percent to $84.4 million, or $1.16 per share, from $95.3 million, or $1.25 per share, in 2005. Full-year net sales were nearly flat at $1.89 billion.American Greetings estimated its 2007 profit in the range of 80 cents to $1 per share. Analysts are predicting annual earnings of $1.15 per share. The company said it will start a plan to refinance about $1 billion of debt.The company, which has 20,000 employees, sells cards and other products under brand names American Greetings, Carlton Cards and Gibson. It owns and operates about 600 card and gift shops throughout North America, and sells cards through retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target.—On the Net:American Greetings:

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