The consumer goods group that owns Jim Beam Brands, Fortune Brands, said it had achieved record results for the fourth quarter and full-year 2004 as broad-based consumer demand and continued share gains helped drive strong double-digit earnings growth in the fourth quarter.

"With sustained momentum in the fourth quarter, Fortune Brands delivered another year of strong double-digit growth that extended our track record of consistently strong results," said Fortune Brands chairman & CEO Norm Wesley. "Successful new products, demand for premium spirits and wine and expanded customer relationships in home products helped fuel double-digit top-line growth in the quarter. Our investments behind powerful consumer brands like Moen, Titleist, Jim Beam, Aristokraft and Kensington continued to generate share gains in key markets. Substantial profit growth for our office products brands added to our success in the quarter.

"We saw robust consumer demand throughout the year, and we grew faster than our markets," Wesley added. "Notably, our full-year sales, operating income and earnings per share all grew on an underlying basis at the fastest rates in our 8-year history as Fortune Brands.

For the fourth quarter net income was US$250m, or US$1.68 per diluted share, up 62% from US$1.04 in the year-ago quarter. In addition to strong operating performance, EPS comparisons also benefited from a tax-related credit and lower restructuring-related charges.
For the full year, net income was US$784m, or US$5.23 per diluted share, up 35% from US$3.86 in 2003. Diluted EPS before charges/gains was US$4.68, up 23% from US$3.79.
Net sales increased 18% to US$7.32 billion. Full-year sales benefited 8.5% from the net impact of acquisitions, excise taxes and favourable foreign exchange.

"Fortune Brands looks to 2005 with confidence," Wesley added. "Several initiatives position us well to continue delivering strong earnings growth. We expect to benefit from the breadth and strength of our market positions, innovative new products, the expansion of our winning partnerships with great brands and customers, the efficiency of our supply chains, and the power of our financial resources.

"2004 was a year of extraordinary performance, and we're anticipating record results in 2005 driven by growth that's more in line with our long-term goals. For both the first quarter and the full year, we're targeting to achieve our long-term goal of double-digit growth in diluted EPS before charges/gains. We anticipate delivering against our long-term goal even with challenging comparisons created by the strength of our 2004 results." The company does not anticipate recording restructuring charges in 2005.