MeadWestvaco reports yearly profit

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Paper and packaging company MeadWestvaco reported a $51 million profit in the fourth quarter, compared with a $16 million loss during the same period the previous year.

Full-year earnings grew 150 percent to $225 million in 2009 from $90 million in 2008.

Sales during the fourth quarter grew 2 percent to $1.64 billion as favorable exchange rates offset a drop in volume. For the year, sales fell 10 percent to $6.05 billion because of the weak economy and the closure of low-performing product lines.

MeadWestvaco attributed its performance to reduced expenses, improved operating productivity and a renewed focus on growing markets and the most profitable customers. The company said it saved $154 million in 2009, including the elimination of 3,000 employees and closure of 16 manufacturing facilities.

The company says the growth of some products and markets is questionable because of the current economy. Its focus on sales in developing nations of China, India and Brazil to offset challenges its Europe and U.S. operations.

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