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Banta Reports Q1 Performance: Supply-Chain Business The Driver

Press release from the issuing company

MENASHA, Wis., April 29, 2003 -- Banta Corporation today reported improved 2003 first quarter net earnings and diluted earnings per share. "We reported improved financial results for the first quarter, largely due to the performance of our supply-chain management business," says Banta President and Chief Executive Officer Stephanie A. Streeter. "Our results were very good considering the continuing soft economy, the war's negative effect on advertising and promotional spending, and the worst print environment in many years. During the quarter we focused on increasing market share and offering our broad range of value-added services to an expanding list of customers. We also maintained cost discipline and continued to increase our cash position by generating strong cash flow during the quarter." 2003 first quarter sales were $336 million compared with $333 million in the comparable 2002 period. Net earnings for this year's first quarter, including a restructuring charge, were $11.2 million compared with $10.5 million last year. Diluted earnings per share for the first quarter were 44 cents per share versus 41 cents in 2002. The restructuring charge affecting the first quarter totaled $916,000 pretax ($565,000 after tax, or 2 cents per diluted share), part of the previously announced $15 million to $18 million restructuring ($9 million to $11 million after tax, or 36 cents to 43 cents per diluted share) and realignment of Banta's consumer catalog and other facilities. "The first three months of the year were encouraging," notes Streeter, "however, economic challenges continue and most of our businesses have limited forecasting visibility due to the uncertainty surrounding the expected rebound in advertising, technology spending and consumer confidence. In addition, spending on educational materials is a concern given state budget deficits." The corporation's expectations for full-year 2003 earnings per diluted share, before restructuring, are $2.36 to $2.48, consistent with earlier guidance of a low- to mid-single digit increase over 2002. However, due to the continuing difficult economic environment and the lack of forward visibility, management believes the upper end of that range may be a bit optimistic. Management expects 2003 full-year earnings per diluted share, based on generally accepted accounting principles, to range from $1.93 to $2.12, which includes 36 cents to 43 cents cost per diluted share for restructuring charges. OPERATING HIGHLIGHTS -- Banta's Supply-Chain Management Sector delivered exceptional first quarter performance. Sales increased 11 percent over 2002's first quarter as Banta experienced increased activity with nearly all of its major technology customers. Operating earnings nearly doubled the year-ago period due to a favorable product mix and improved facility utilization at most locations. "While it is difficult to predict when technology markets will recover, we were encouraged by our level of business activity during the quarter," says Streeter. "If spending by corporations on new capabilities and infrastructure resumes later this year, we should benefit from increased demand for our supply-chain outsourcing services." -- Print Sector sales were 2 percent below the same period last year, $232 million versus $236 million. Despite lower revenues, actual first quarter print manufacturing activity rose, confirming Banta's market share gains. Sector operating earnings were appreciably off last year's first quarter as demand was weak in the commercial print markets and excess industry capacity continued to subject printers to significant pricing pressures. * Educational book printing was below 2002's strong first quarter as publishers dealt with the potential for less spending on educational materials by states facing budget deficits. Several states have delayed spending on curriculum materials as they determine the best areas to target for spending reductions. Literature management services remained strong during the quarter as the book division gained new customers and expanded its value-added service capabilities. * Banta's publications division delivered both improved sales and earnings in the first quarter despite further magazine advertising page reductions. Market share gains continued to propel the division's strong performance. * Catalog division revenues increased in the first quarter compared to the same period last year. Earnings, however, decreased due to competitive pricing and a lower-margin mix of print projects. * Direct marketing was Banta's most challenged business during the first quarter, as customers remained cautious about promotional spending, awaiting positive signs on consumer confidence. In addition, the war caused a major disruption in direct marketing activities during March, significantly affecting the print industry and Banta's first quarter results. -- Operating profitability for Banta's single-use healthcare products division increased 3 percent in the first quarter versus the same period last year due to improved efficiencies and cost containment. Sales were modestly lower for the quarter, primarily due to lower prices on foreign-sourced products and a general industry slowdown. "Our product and service diversity, ability to gain market share and ongoing cost controls combined to produce solid results for the first quarter," said Streeter. "While questions remain regarding the status of the economic recovery, Banta is well positioned to benefit from renewed business activity. We have ample capacity, our customer base continues to expand and we have the financial strength to invest where appropriate to maximize growth." Banta will host a conference call to discuss its first quarter results Wednesday, April 30 at 9:45 a.m. CDT (10:45 a.m. EDT). This call will be simultaneously broadcast in the Investor Relations area of Banta's Website at www.banta.com , and a replay of the call will be available.