US gum maker Wm Wrigley said yesterday (6 February) that its fourth quarter profits were up 37% thanks to higher sales, particularly in Europe, India and the Middle East.

Profits were up to US$128.8m, or $0.46 per share, up from $94.1m, or $0.33 per share, for the comparable period of last year.

The company said that fourth quarter earnings included restructuring costs of $0.05 per share and stock options expenses of $0.02 a share. Currency exchange added $0.02 per share .

Sales rose 11% to $1.22bn from $1.11bn, driven by gains in international markets. In Europe, the Middle East and India, sales climbed 19% during the period, while Asian sales were up 18%. Hindered by declining demand for sugar gum, US sales rose by just 1%. 

For the full year, Wrigley earned $529.4m, or $1.90 per share, a 2% increase from $517.3m in the previous year.

Full year sales were up 13% to $4.49bn, representing a 14% increase in North America driven by Orbit sugar-free gum, and a 23% increase in Asia.

"We delivered solid results overall in 2006 and demonstrated the strength of our business," executive chairman Bill Wrigley, Jr. said in a statement.

Wrigley shares climbed from an opening price yesterday of $51.51 to close at $52.27, However, in morning trade on the New York Stock Exchange today, shares in the Chicago-based gum maker fell 1.72% to $51.37 at time of press.