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Packaging company MeadWestvaco's 4Q profit jumps

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — MeadWestvaco Corp. said Wednesday that its fourth-quarter profit jumped on the sale of its forestry business and growth in its packaging and specialty chemicals segments.

MeadWestvaco operates in 30 countries and has customers in more than 100 nations. In the last several years, it has gone from a mill-centric paper supplier to a global partner for brands like Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart.

The company booked a pretax gain of $780 million from the sale of its forestry and certain minerals-related businesses to Plum Creek Timber Co. in December. MeadWestvaco used $131 million of the proceeds to repurchase about 3.75 million shares of stock in the fourth quarter.

MeadWestvaco said sales in its industrial segment grew about 24 percent to $146 million and sales in its specialty chemical business for asphalt, adhesives, inks and oilfield drilling increased about 1 percent to $234 million. Sales in its home, health and beauty packaging segment increased about 1 percent to $182 million and sales in its food and beverage packaging segment increased less than a percent to $748 million.

The Richmond, Va., company reported earnings of $681 million, or $3.79 per share, for the period ended Dec. 31, compared with $17 million, or 10 cents per share, in the final quarter of 2012. Excluding one-time gains and charges, MeadWestvaco earned 29 cents per share, beating Wall Street expectations by 5 cents.

Revenue increased 3 percent to $1.32 billion, matching analyst expectations, according to FactSet.

Its shares rose 21 cents to $36.06 in morning trading Wednesday.

The company said it expects its first-quarter adjusted earnings to grow well above the year-ago period on improved demand for its packaging and chemical products, better pricing and productivity, as well as savings from a previously announced cost-reduction program.

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Michael Felberbaum can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/MLFelberbaum

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