This represents a 10% increase in earnings per share from the third quarter of 2000, when the company reported net earnings, excluding unusual items, of $63.9 million or $0.40 per share (diluted). Third quarter 2001 net sales were $1.360 billion, compared with $1.430 billion in the prior year.The decline in sales was due principally to foreign currency effects and the absence of revenues from the company's former labels business, which was sold in the first quarter of 2001. Compared with the third quarter of 2000, worldwide glass container shipments were lower, while worldwide shipments of plastics packaging products were higher than those of the prior year period.
Joseph H. Lemieux, Owens-Illinois chairman and chief executive officer, said, "Despite a challenging worldwide economic environment, our operations achieved improved year-over-year results in the third quarter and are positioned to exceed last year's fourth quarter results as well. Our operations are benefiting from lower cost structures, resulting from previously announced initiatives to consolidate manufacturing capacity and reduce other expenses. Our performance also is benefiting from moderating energy prices and lower interest rates. Foreign exchange rates continued to have an adverse effect on comparisons with prior year results in the third quarter but to a lesser degree than in the last several reporting periods."
Consolidated EBIT was $222.4 million, up from $220.0 million, excluding unusual items, in the third quarter of 2000. (EBIT consists of consolidated earnings before interest income, interest expense, provision for income taxes, and minority share owners' interests in earnings of subsidiaries.) The year- over-year EBIT increase was achieved despite the absence of contributions from the company's former labels business and the former Harbor Capital Advisors business, which was sold this past June. In addition, foreign currency weakness in the third quarter of 2001 reduced reported EBIT by $6.2 million compared with the prior year period.
Interest expense of $105.1 million was down by $19.1 million from the third quarter of 2000. The decrease was due to the effects of lower interest rates and a reduction of more than $500 million in the company's outstanding debt. Total debt at September 30, 2001 was $5.313 billion, down from $5.872 billion at September 30, 2000. As announced previously, the company
used proceeds of over $460 million from the sale of its Harbor Capital Advisors business to reduce debt, including a $455 million reduction in the principal amount of its $1.5 billion senior secured term loan.