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Banta Records Improved Q4 Sales and Earnings, Solid 2003 Performance

Press release from the issuing company

MENASHA, Wis., Jan. 27 -- Banta Corporation today reported an encouraging final quarter of 2003, as print activity strengthened, and the corporation's Supply-Chain Management and Healthcare businesses continued to deliver strong performance. Full-year sales increased over the prior year and net earnings, before charges, nearly equaled those reported for 2002. Banta Corporation's full-year 2003 net earnings, including special charges, were $46.6 million compared with $43.8 million the prior year. 2003 diluted earnings per share were $1.81, 10 cents above 2002's $1.71. Sales reached $1.42 billion, compared with the prior year's $1.37 billion. Previously announced special charges affecting 2003's pretax results totaled $21.6 million ($13.5 million, or 53 cents per diluted share, after tax). The 2002 results included a fourth quarter non-cash impairment charge of $26.8 million, pretax ($16.3 million, or 64 cents per diluted share, after tax). Excluding special charges in both periods, 2003 net earnings were $60.1 million, equal to 2002's $60.1 million. Diluted earnings per share before the charges were $2.34, nearly equal to last year's $2.35, on 178,000 more average shares outstanding. Fourth quarter net earnings were $12.2 million (47 cents per diluted share) compared with $392,000 (2 cents per diluted share) reported for the same period last year. Fourth quarter sales of $394 million were 13 percent above the prior year's $348 million. Excluding special charges in both periods, 2003 fourth quarter net earnings were $17.5 million, 4 percent above the prior-year's $16.7 million. Diluted earnings per share before charges reached 67 cents compared with 2002's 66 cents. President and Chief Executive Officer Stephanie A. Streeter said Banta closed 2003 with a strong finish, and noted that major actions taken during the year helped prepare the company for 2004 and beyond. "In 2003, our businesses faced challenges from a soft economy and continued pricing pressure, yet our business diversity and niche market focus, combined with productivity gains and operational effectiveness, helped us deliver solid financial performance," stated Streeter. "We also expanded our literature management capabilities, enlarged our presence in special-interest magazines, modernized our consumer catalog platform, and both grew sales and improved efficiencies in supply-chain management. "I'm especially encouraged to see estimating activity improving for our commercial print businesses," emphasized Streeter, noting that those operations were most affected by the past year's difficult economy. "We are beginning to see an increase in the number of print projects, and in the quantities of materials required -- both of which could generate increased revenue for Banta." A 2003 highlight was the performance of Banta's Supply-Chain Management business, which recorded strong double-digit increases in both sales and operating earnings. "Our Supply-Chain Management Sector delivered exceptional performance this past year, benefiting from strong activity with our industry- leading customers," said Streeter. "Our strategy to invest in Supply-Chain Management has given Banta a unique and successful platform of business diversification, which offers us continuing significant growth opportunities, particularly within an improving economic cycle."