Jacuzzi Brands announced sales and earnings increases and operating decreases for the first quarter of fiscal 2005 ended Jan. 1.

Sales in the bath products segment increased slightly in the first quarter of 2005 compared with the same period in 2004. A $7.3 million foreign currency benefit was largely offset by a decline in Eljer® sales, because the company has downsized that brand's operations.

Year-over-year comparisons are impacted by the additional week in the first quarter of fiscal 2004. The company expects overall sales in the bath products segment to increase in 2005 as a result of its product introductions and enhanced marketing initiatives, but this will be partially offset by decreases in sales of Eljer products.

Sales in the plumbing products segment increased 14.3% to $76.8 million in the first quarter of 2005 from the same period last year. The company attributed this to growth in the company's principal markets, rising acceptance of its sensor technology, the market's continued conversion from copper pipe to PEX tubing in plumbing applications, and the full realization of price increases implemented during the latter half of fiscal 2004.

Operating income decreased in the bath products segment while it increased in the plumbing products business.

The bath products segment operating income decreased $3.2 million, primarily due to higher costs for freight and raw materials, as well as higher selling, general and administrative expenses. These expenses increased by $2.4 million due to new product introductions, marketing costs and start-up costs for the expanded stainless steel sink plant in Malta. The company said it expects to recover from these costs through higher sales later in the year.

Operating income for the plumbing products business increased 24.6% to $15.2 million (19.8% of sales) from $12.2 million (18.2% of sales) in 2004. Strong sales volume and favorable pricing more than offset higher scrap iron and steel costs. The company's initiatives targeting raw material sourcing have also contributed positively to overall margins .

“We continue to monitor commodity prices and are confident that our ongoing initiatives will mitigate the impact that these rising costs might have on our operating results,” said David H. Clarke, chairman and chief executive officer.

Jacuzzi Brands' products are marketed under brands including Jacuzzi®, Sundance®, Eljer®, Zurn®, Sanitan®, Astracast®, and Rainbow®. For more information, visit www.jacuzzibrands.com.