* EPS ex-items $2.11 vs Street’s $2.26
* Sales up 4 pct at $5 billion, above $4.8 bln estimate
* To hike prices to combat rising raw material costs
* See uneven demand levels around the world in 2011 (Adds estimates, price hikes, efforts to boost productivity)
By Dhanya Skariachan
NEW YORK, Feb 2 (Reuters) - World’s top appliance maker Whirlpool Corp (WHR.N) is raising prices of its goods this year to combat rising costs of materials like steel, plastics and paint, echoing the sentiment from smaller Swedish rival Electrolux (ELUXb.ST).
The maker of Maytag and KitchenAid appliances, which missed quarterly profit estimates on Wednesday, plans to boost productivity as it waits for demand in mature markets like the United States and Europe to perk up.
Whirlpool’s net earnings rose to $171 million, or $2.19 a share, from $95 million, or $1.24 a share, a year earlier.
Excluding items, it earned $2.11 a share, missing the analysts’ average estimate of $2.26 a share.
Sales rose 4 percent to $5.0 billion, above the analysts’ average estimate of $4.8 billion.
Whirlpool has shut plants, cut jobs and moved some manufacturing to low cost-centers like Mexico. It has also started using common parts across its portfolio of dishwashers, refrigerators and washing machines.
“For 2011, we expect positive but uneven demand levels around the world,” Jeff M. Fettig, chairman and chief executive officer of Whirlpool, said in a statement. “Raw material inflation is driving costs higher and we expect to mitigate these costs with improvements in cost productivity, innovation and recently announced price increases.” (Reporting by Dhanya Skariachan; Editing by Derek Caney)