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USA - Mueller Water Products orders dry up in sinking economy

ATLANTA, GA. - Mueller Water Products Inc. said that it was facing some of the stormiest economic seas it's ever seen.

The company, which has major factory and foundry operations in Decatur, has been slashing costs and shedding jobs companywide over the past 18 months and said it was ready to cut more costs in 2009.

Union leaders in Decatur said 10 "down days," when production is sharply cut back and workers stay home without pay, were being implemented between November and Jan. 2. "They are only allowed 16 in a year by contract," said Steve Moroney, president of United Steelworkers Local 7-838.

"They've used a couple down days here and there before, but they've never had to use a large amount like this in a two-month period."

Mueller announced fourth-quarter results. Net income was 15 cents a share, compared to the 13 cents a share earned at the same time in 2007. Net income for the full year, however, came in at 36 cents a share, down 12 percent from the 42 cents earned in 2007.

Net sales for the full year were pegged at $1.86 billion, up $10 million compared to the $1.85 billion earned in 2007. But sales trends in September and October plunged sharply as the country's economic crisis deepened, and Mueller warned that the first part of 2009 was likely to be heavy going.

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