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Herman Miller offers no guidance as orders drop

Thursday 18 December 2008

Herman Miller Inc. won\'t try to forecast its third quarter results, executives told analysts Thursday, because the world economic outlook is just too choppy.

In a conference call, Brian Walker, chief executive officer, said the second quarter got worse as it went on.

\"Our decision to not provide guidance at this time has two factors,\" Walker said. \"The third quarter each year is hardest by far to predict,\" complicated by holidays and planned shutdowns. Then, throw in the turbulent economy.

\"The fluid and rather cloudy economic environment will exacerbate our normal seasonal guidance.\"

The mayhem in the financial markets led Herman Miller to lower its second quarter forecast in early November, for the quarter that ended Nov. 29.

Even with that more conservative expectation, the reality came in at the low end.

Second-quarter profits were $32 million, down 20 percent, and sales of $476.6 million were off 6 percent.

The company\'s mid-quarter revised range was $475 million to $495 million in sales. It had forecast earnings per share between 57 and 64 cents, and the result was 60 cents.

\"The business climate today is much different than it was at the beginning of the quarter,\" Curt Pullen, chief financial officer, said. \"Order levels have fallen across most regions of North America.\"

Outside the continent, orders are off 30 percent, \"a significant swing in our business,\" Pullen said.

The swift downturn led the company to launch buyouts, layoffs and cuts in temporary employees. More than 1,000 employees will leave the business by the time the cuts are complete in early January.

Herman Miller\'s stock was down 4 cents in early trading today, to $14.19 on the Nasdaq.

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