Jacuzzi Brands, a global producer of branded bath and plumbing products for the residential, commercial and institutional markets, said its net earnings for the fourth quarter ended Oct. 2 rose to $5.5 million, or 7 cents per share, vs. a net loss of $16.3 million, or 22 cents per share, in the fourth quarter of 2003. Fourth quarter net sales rose by 5% to $343.7 million compared with $327.4 million last year.

In the bath products category, fourth quarter sales were up 3%, led by higher sales of domestic whirlpool baths, both jetted and non-jetted. Sales in the European market were also strong, primarily due to growth in the home center sector. Favorable currency exchange rates contributed to the fourth quarter sales increase but their impact was offset by lower sales at Eljer due to the rationalization of its unprofitable product lines and softness in the domestic spa business.

Sales in the plumbing products segment increased 13.3% in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2004 from the comparable prior year period. Sales increased across all product lines primarily due to a slight rebound in the U.S. commercial and institutional construction market coupled with favorable pricing, product innovations and continuation of targeted marketing programs. The PEX and commercial brass product lines showed the strongest sales growth, which the company said was driven by superior sensor technology and the market's continued conversion of copper pipe to PEX tubing in plumbing applications.

Jacuzzi Brands reported net sales for fiscal 2004 were up 13% to $1.35 billion vs. net sales of $1.19 billion for fiscal 2003. The company attributed the increase to strong sales in the bath products and plumbing products segments.

The bath products segment has seen continued growth in the domestic spa and bath businesses, due to an expanded specialty retailer base, as well as growth in the European bath and sink businesses, which primarily resulted from continued higher sales to the home center channel. Favorable currency exchange rates also contributed to the results.

Sales growth in the bath products segment was partially offset by a sales decrease of about 12% at Eljer, as a result of the rationalization of unprofitable product lines.

The increase in plumbing products segment sales was the result of continued market penetration, particularly in the PEX and commercial brass product lines, the company said.

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