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Ecolab expects double-digit EPS growth in 2018 after quarterly profit boost

Ecolab Inc. said it was targeting double-digit adjusted EPS growth this year as it reported higher profit for the fourth quarter of 2017, driven by tax changes in the U.S. and improved sales volume and pricing growth across all key businesses of the water treatment, hygiene, and energy technologies and services company.

Net income grew to $565.9 million, or $1.93 per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2017, from $366.3 million, or $1.24 per share, in the prior-year period. The company said its EPS included a net discrete tax benefit of 55 cents from the U.S. tax cuts law.

Excluding discrete tax items and special gains and charges, Ecolab earned $406.7 million, or $1.39 per share, in the quarter, up from $368.2 million, or $1.25 per share, a year ago.

Year over year, fourth-quarter net sales increased 9% to $3.65 billion from $3.35 billion. At a fixed currency rate, global industrial sales went up 6% to $1.29 billion, global institutional sales rose 8% to $1.22 billion, and global energy sales climbed 11% to $853.2 million.

"All segments reported improved sales volume and pricing growth in the quarter as they leveraged our strong product innovation portfolio and sales and service teams to drive the new business gains," said Ecolab Chairman and CEO Douglas Baker Jr.

For the full year, Ecolab Inc. reported a net income of $1.51 billion, or $5.13 per share, up from $1.23 billion, or $4.14 per share, in 2016. Full-year net sales grew 5% to $13.84 billion from $13.15 billion.

In 2018, Ecolab projects its full-year adjusted EPS to be between $5.25 and $5.45, rising 12% to 16% from $4.69 in 2017. For the first quarter, the company raised its adjusted EPS forecast to a range of 85 to 93 cents.

"We believe our current pricing momentum and new products and programs will enable us to more than offset the cost pressure, expand margins and drive double-digit earnings per share growth," Baker said.