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HARTSVILLE, S.C, USA, Feb 9, 2012 - Sonoco (NYSE: SON), one of the largest diversified global packaging companies, today reported financial results for the fourth quarter and full-year 2011. As a result of the Company’s accounting calendar, the fourth quarter of 2011 had six fewer days than the same period in 2010.

Fourth Quarter Highlights

Fourth quarter 2011 GAAP earnings per diluted share were $.29, compared with $.33 in 2010.
Fourth quarter 2011 GAAP results include after-tax charges of $.17 per diluted share, driven by previously announced restructuring activities, acquisition expenses and acquisition inventory step-up costs.
Base net income attributable to Sonoco (base earnings) for fourth quarter 2011 was $.46 per diluted share, compared with $.59 in 2010. (See base earnings definition and reconciliation later in this release.)
Fourth quarter 2011 net sales were $1.13 billion, or essentially flat with the fourth quarter of 2010.

Full-Year Highlights

Full-year 2011 GAAP earnings per diluted share were $2.13, compared with $1.96 in 2010.
Full-year 2011 GAAP results include $.16 per diluted share in after-tax restructuring charges, acquisition expenses and acquisition inventory step-up costs, partially offset by net positive adjustments to valuation allowances on deferred tax assets. In comparison, 2010 GAAP results included after-tax impairment and restructuring charges, debt tender and acquisition expenses along with certain tax adjustments totaling $.38 per diluted share.
Net sales reached a record of $4.5 billion in 2011, up 9 percent, compared with $4.1 billion in 2010.

Earnings Guidance

First quarter 2012 base earnings are expected to be $.45 to $.50 per diluted share.
Guidance for full-year 2012 base earnings is $2.32 to $2.42 per diluted share.

Fourth Quarter Review

Commenting on the Company’s fourth quarter results, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Harris E. DeLoach, Jr. said, “Base earnings declined in the fourth quarter due to an unexpected deterioration in demand in our global Paper and Industrial Converted Products segment late in the quarter, a higher than expected effective tax rate and the impact of 6 percent fewer days. Partially offsetting these negative factors was a positive price/cost relationship, which was primarily a result of an approximate 20 percent decline in the cost of recovered paper, and lower pension and management incentive costs.”

“Our Consumer Packaging segment’s operating profit declined 6 percent from last year, due primarily to the impact of fewer days. The segment experienced a slightly positive price/cost relationship, while volume was essentially flat on a same-day basis. Our Packaging Services segment operating profits declined during the quarter due to the previously reported loss of a contract packaging customer.

“Our Paper and Industrial Converted Products segment experienced a 17 percent reduction in operating profits during the quarter as North American and European tubes and cores unit volume declined approximately 7 percent, on a same-day basis, and productivity was constrained due to a significant amount of downtime taken by the Company’s paper mills. Sonoco’s new Protective Packaging segment had a 22 percent increase in operating profit during the quarter as results from the recently completed acquisition of Tegrant Holding Corporation more than offset volume declines in the Company’s legacy paperboard-based protective packaging business.”

Fourth quarter 2011 GAAP net income attributable to Sonoco was $29.5 million, or $.29 per diluted share, compared with $34.5 million, or $.33 per diluted share, in 2010. Base earnings were $47.1 million, or $.46 per diluted share, in the fourth quarter of 2011, compared with $60.8 million, or $.59 per diluted share, in 2010. Base earnings and base earnings per diluted share are non-GAAP financial measures adjusted to remove restructuring charges, asset impairment charges, acquisition expenses, acquisition inventory step-up costs and other items, if any, the exclusion of which the Company believes improves comparability and analysis of the underlying financial performance of the business.

Items excluded from base earnings in the 2011 fourth quarter include: restructuring expenses and impairment charges of $9.9 million, after tax, or $.10 per share, primarily due to the closure of several locations, most notably a tubes and cores plant and a plastics facility; acquisition-related costs of $4.3 million, after tax, or $.04 per share; acquisition inventory step-up cost of $2.0 million, after tax, or $.02 per share, a $2.5 million after-tax gain, or $.02 per share, on insurance proceeds in excess of recognized fire damage property losses, and $3.9 million, or $.03 per share, from deferred tax valuation increases related to plant closures. Items excluded from base earnings in the fourth quarter of 2010 include: a $31.6 million, after-tax, or $.31 per diluted share, charge related to a debt tender; restructuring and acquisition charges totaling $4.8 million, after tax, or $.05 per share; and tax benefits of $5.4 million, after tax, or $.05 per share, related to a regulatory clarification of a 2009 tax law change in Mexico; and a $4.7 million benefit, after tax, or $.05 per share, related to the release of a valuation allowance on capital loss carryforwards. Additional information about base earnings and base earnings per diluted share, along with a reconciliation to the most closely applicable GAAP financial measures, is provided later in this release.

Net sales for the fourth quarter were $1.13 billion, compared with $1.13 billion in the same period in 2010. Sales were flat during the quarter despite approximately $61 million in net sales from the Tegrant acquisition, which closed on November 8, 2011. In addition, sales were positively impacted by higher selling prices realized in the Paper and Industrial Converted Products and Consumer Packaging segments. These favorable factors were offset by lower volume and a negative mix of business, primarily in the Paper and Industrial Converted Products and Packaging Services segments and an approximate $16 million negative impact of foreign currency translation.

The Company’s gross profit margin in the fourth quarter of 2011 was 16.4 percent of sales, compared with 17.7 percent in the same period in 2010. The decline was primarily due to lower volume, a negative shift in the mix of business and higher labor and other costs. The Company’s selling, general and administrative expenses, less the impact of acquisition and fewer days, declined 10 percent year over year, primarily due to lower management incentives and cost controls.

Cash generated from operations in the fourth quarter was $113.4 million, compared with $114.6 million generated in the same period in 2010. Cash from operations declined year over year due primarily to lower earnings. Capital expenditures and cash dividends were $49 million and $29 million, respectively, during the fourth quarter of 2011, compared with $45 million and $28 million, respectively, during the fourth quarter of 2010.

2011 Results

Net sales for 2011 increased 9 percent to a record $4.5 billion, compared with $4.1 billion in 2010. Net income attributable to Sonoco for 2011 was $217.5 million, or $2.13 per diluted share, compared with $201.1 million, or $1.96 per diluted share in 2010. Earnings in 2011 were negatively impacted by $16.1 million, after tax, or $.16 per share due to the following: restructuring expenses and impairment charges of $25.5 million, after tax, or $.25 per diluted share; acquisition-related costs of $6.6 million, after tax, or $.07 per diluted share; and acquisition inventory step-up costs of $2.0 million, or $.02 per share; offset by a $3.0 million after-tax gain, or $.03 per share, on insurance proceeds in excess of recognized fire damaged property losses and a gain of $15.0 million, or $.15 per share, due to reduction in tax expense resulting from valuation allowance adjustments on deferred tax assets. Earnings for 2010 were negatively impacted by the previously mentioned after-tax charge of $31.6 million, or $.31 per diluted share, associated with the debt tender, and $16.9 million, or $.17 per share, in after-tax asset impairment, restructuring and acquisitions charges, partially offset by the previously mentioned tax benefits of $10.2 million, or $.10 per share.

2011 base earnings were $233.6 million, or $2.29 per diluted share, compared with $239.4 million, or $2.34 per diluted share in 2010. This 2 percent year-over-year decline was a result of lower volumes, a negative mix of business and higher labor and other costs, partially offset by productivity gains, lower pension costs and a modestly positive price/cost relationship. Gross profit as a percent of sales was 16.8 percent for 2011, compared with 18.6 percent in 2010.

Cash generated from operations in 2011 was $245.3 million, compared with $375.1 million in 2010. Higher pension and postretirement plan contributions account for approximately $112.6 million of the year-over-year decrease, including $92.2 million in contributions to the Company’s U.S. pension plan. Capital expenditures and cash dividends were $173.4 million and $115.0 million, respectively, for 2011, compared with $145.9 million and $111.8 million, respectively, in 2010.

The Company also used $46.3 million to repurchase common stock on the open market in 2011, compared with $23.2 million spent in 2010 on open market share repurchases. The Company spent a total of $566.9 million on acquisitions in 2011, compared with $137.8 million spent in 2010. The Tegrant acquisition, which was completed on November 8, 2011, cost $550.0 million in cash.

During the fourth quarter of 2011, Sonoco issued $500 million of new senior unsecured notes consisting of $250 million of 4.375% Notes due 2021 and an additional $250 million of its 5.75% Notes due 2040. These funds were used for the Tegrant acquisition. Additionally, the Company entered into a $150 million three-year Term Loan Agreement, using a substantial portion of the proceeds to reduce outstanding commercial paper.

At the end of 2011, total debt was $1.3 billion, compared with $621 million at the end of 2010. The aforementioned acquisitions, pension contributions and share repurchases were primarily responsible for the increase. The Company’s debt-to-total-capital ratio was 47.4 percent, compared with 29.2 percent at the end of 2010. Cash and cash equivalents at the end of 2011 totaled $175.5 million, compared with $158.2 million at year-end 2010.

“2011 proved to be a challenging year,” said DeLoach. “In addition to the unexpected decline in industrial-related volumes at year end, we faced escalating raw material, energy, freight and other costs during the year and productivity was well below our historical standards. Despite these significant headwinds, Sonoco achieved record sales while achieving our second highest base earnings before interest and taxes and the third highest base earnings in Company history. Furthermore, we completed the acquisition of Tegrant, which provides the Company with a new growth platform and establishes us as a leading custom-engineered, multi-material protective packaging provider in North America.”

“We remain cautious entering 2012 as global economic trends remain uncertain. We are focused on continuing to implement targeted growth projects, particularly in our consumer-related businesses, fully integrating Tegrant and achieving annualized synergies of $12 million, improving productivity and continuing to drive cost reduction throughout our business.”

Corporate

Net interest expense for the fourth quarter of 2011 increased to $12.8 million, compared with $9.7 million during the same period in 2010. The increase was due to higher debt levels as a result of the acquisition of Tegrant. The effective tax rate for the fourth quarter of 2011 was 51.1 percent, compared with (8.2) percent for the same period in 2010, reflecting a higher percentage of the Company’s income before taxes being generated in higher tax jurisdictions, the unfavorable effect of timing differences on the manufacturing deduction, and a deferred tax valuation adjustment related to restructuring. The effective tax rate on base earnings was 39.0 percent and 31.6 percent in the fourth quarters of 2011 and 2010, respectively. For the year, the effective tax rate was 27.6 percent, compared with 25.3 percent in 2010. The higher tax rate for 2011 was primarily a result of the aforementioned issues.

First Quarter and Full-Year 2012 Outlook

Sonoco expects first quarter 2012 base earnings to be in the range of $.45 to $.50 per diluted share. Base earnings in the first quarter of 2011 were $.57 per diluted share. For the full-year 2012, base earnings are projected to be in the range of $2.32 to $2.42 per diluted share. The Company had previously provided full-year guidance of $2.47 to $2.57 per diluted share. The Company’s earnings guidance for 2012 reflects an expected effective tax rate of approximately 33.5 percent, compared to previous guidance of 32.0 percent.

The Company’s base earnings guidance assumes sales demand will remain near current levels, adjusted for seasonality. Although the Company believes the assumptions reflected in the range of guidance are reasonable, given the volatility of raw material prices and other costs, as well as uncertainty regarding the global economy, actual results could vary substantially.

Commenting on the Company’s outlook, DeLoach said, “The first quarter is historically our weakest quarter due to slow seasonal demand. We do not expect any further decline in industrial-related volumes from the fourth quarter and believe capacity utilization at our paper mills will improve during the quarter. For 2012, we are adjusting our forecast to reflect changing business conditions, a negative shift in expected foreign currency exchange rates and a higher than previously expected effective tax rate. That said, productivity should improve and we should benefit from our continuing cost reduction and restructuring actions.”

Segment Review

To better reflect its business mix following the acquisition of Tegrant, as well as recent internal management reporting changes, beginning with the fourth quarter of 2011 the Company will be reporting financial results in four reportable segments. These four segments will consist of the same three reportable segments previously reported, each with relatively minor changes, and the addition of a fourth segment—Protective Packaging—which will consist of Tegrant and the Company’s legacy protective packaging business.

Segment operating results do not include restructuring and asset impairment charges, acquisition expenses, interest income and expense, income taxes or certain other items, if any, the exclusion of which the Company believes improves comparability and analysis.

Consumer Packaging

Sonoco’s Consumer Packaging segment includes the following products and services: round and shaped rigid containers and trays (both composite and thermoformed plastic); blow-molded plastic bottles and jars; extruded and injection-molded plastic products; printed flexible packaging; metal and peelable membrane ends and closures; and global brand artwork management.

Fourth quarter 2011 sales for the segment were $485 million, compared with $494 million in the same period in 2010. Segment operating profit was $47.8 million in the fourth quarter, compared with $50.8 million last year.

Sales declined 2 percent in the fourth quarter primarily due to the negative impact of six fewer days, which more than offset higher selling prices. Volume and mix, on a same day basis, were slightly improved in the segment due to growth in food-related blow-molded plastic containers. Operating profits declined 6 percent due to fewer days and labor and energy cost inflation. This more than offset a modest favorable price/cost relationship and lower pension costs.

Paper and Industrial Converted Products

The Paper and Industrial Converted Products segment includes the following products: high-performance paper and composite paperboard tubes and cores; fiber-based construction tubes and forms; wooden, metal and composite wire and cable reels and spools; and recycled paperboard, linerboard, corrugating medium, recovered paper and other recycled materials.

Fourth quarter 2011 sales for the segment were $452 million, compared with $474 million in the same period in 2010. Segment operating profit was $29.4 million, compared with $35.6 million in 2010.

The 5 percent reduction in fourth quarter sales in this segment was due primarily to lower volume, a negative mix of business, fewer days in the quarter and the negative impact of foreign currency translation. Operating profits declined 17 percent due to negative volume and business mix, fewer days and higher labor and other costs. These factors more than offset a positive price/cost relationship and lower pension costs.

Packaging Services

The Packaging Services segment includes the following products and services: designing, manufacturing, assembling, packing and distributing temporary, semipermanent and permanent point-of-purchase displays; supply chain management services, including contract packing, fulfillment and scalable service centers; and paper amenities, such as coasters and glass covers.

Fourth quarter 2011 sales for this segment were $109 million, compared with $133 million in the same period in 2010. Segment operating profit was $1.7 million, compared with $2.3 million in 2010.

Improvement in point-of-purchase display volume and fulfillment activities and higher selling prices were more than offset by the previously disclosed loss of a contract packaging customer, the negative impact of foreign currency translation and fewer days. Operating profit for the segment declined due to lower volumes and negative mix of business associated with the lost contract packaging customer, negative productivity and fewer days. These factors more than offset higher selling prices and lower pension and other expenses.

Protective Packaging

The Protective Packaging segment includes the following products: custom-designed paperboard-based and expanded foam protective packaging; temperature-assurance packaging; and retail security packaging.

Fourth quarter 2011 sales in this segment were $84 million, compared with $26 million in the same period in 2010. Operating profit for the current quarter was $5.2 million, compared with $4.3 million in 2010.

The significant sales growth in the segment during the fourth quarter was due entirely to 53 days of sales from the recently completed Tegrant acquisition. This offset the impact of fewer days and volume reduction from the Company’s legacy protective packaging business. Operating profits increased 22 percent due to the Tegrant acquisition, which more than offset lower volume, fewer days and a negative price/cost relationship experienced by the Company’s legacy protective packaging business.

Conference Call Webcast

Sonoco will host its regular quarterly conference call Thursday, February 9, 2012, at 10 a.m. Eastern time, to review its fourth quarter and full-year 2011 financial results. The live conference call can be accessed in a “listen only” mode via the Internet at http://www.sonoco.com/, under the Investor Relations section. A telephonic replay of the call will be available starting at 2 p.m. Eastern time to U.S. callers at 888-286-8010 and international callers at +617-801-6888. The replay passcode for both U.S. and international calls is 57655552. The archived call will be available through February 19, 2012. The webcast call also will be archived in the Investor Relations section of Sonoco’s website.

About Sonoco

Founded in 1899, Sonoco is a global provider of a variety of consumer packaging, industrial products, protective packaging and packaging supply chain services. With annualized net sales of approximately $4.5 billion, the Company has more than 19,000 employees working in 340 operations in 34 countries, serving some of the world’s best known brands in some 85 nations. Sonoco is a proud member of the 2011/2012 Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. For more information on the Company, visit our website at www.sonoco.com.
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