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Owens-Illinois Tumbles After Cutting Profit-Margin Forecast

June 15 (Bloomberg) -- Owens-Illinois Inc., the world’s biggest maker of glass bottles, fell the most in more than a year after lowering its forecast for second-quarter profit margin because of higher costs and weaker demand in Australia.

Operating margins in the quarter will be three to six percentage points less than a year earlier, Chief Financial Officer Ed White said in an interview. The Perrysburg, Ohio-based company had predicted that the margins would match those of the 2010 period.

Sales of glass bottles have slumped in Australia and New Zealand because strong currencies have made wine exports less competitive and rising interest rates have damped consumer demand, hurting domestic beer consumption, White said.

“Wine exports out of Australia are exceeding their historic price points,” he said. “We sort of go up or down based on our customers’ success. They’re struggling and we’re struggling.”

Owens-Illinois declined $3.19, or 11 percent, to $26.35 at 1:27 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Earlier, the shares fell as low as $26.22 for their biggest intraday drop since May 6, 2010. They slid the most today among companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Philip Ng, an analyst at Jefferies & Co. in New York, reduced his estimate for 2011 earnings per share by 45 cents, to $2.50, and cut his target price for the stock by $4, to $35.

The company “will likely remain in the penalty box until it can execute better,” Ng wrote in a note to investors today. He recommends buying the shares.

Growth Outlook

Owens-Illinois is keeping its annual forecast of 5 percent to 10 percent growth in shipments and free cash flow of $300 million as growth in South America and the U.S. makes up for the slump in the Asia-Pacific region, White said. The operating profit margin in 2010’s second quarter was about 16 percent, the company said.

The cash forecast may have to be adjusted as the company contemplates idling a glass furnace in Australia because of lower demand, White said.

“If we’re going to do some capacity realignment, there could be some pressure” on the cash-flow forecast, he said.

Higher demand in the U.S. is contributing to the lower profit margin, White said. Costs increased as Owens-Illinois restarted production at two idle glass furnaces, in Atlanta and Oakland, California, he said. Expenses also rose because the company had to ship products across regions to meet customers’ needs, he said.

“We’ve been hit with operating issues that are truly short-term but have suppressed our outlook in the quarter,” he said. “We saw the volume coming, but it was the ramp-up on the factory floor across our network that added extra cost.”

Restarting the two U.S. furnaces will add about 4 percent to the company’s domestic glass capacity, White said.

Owens-Illinois may decide to build a $70 million glass factory in Brazil that could begin operations by the end of next year to meet higher demand, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Thomas Black in Monterrey at tblack@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net

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