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Waste Management Earnings Beat Forecasts; Sales Fall Short

Waste Management , the nation's largest garbage hauler, said Thursday its fourth-quarter earnings fell 15% from a year ago, when the company had heavy business from hurricane cleanups and one extra work day.

Revenue in the most recent quarter fell to $3.28 billion from $3.37 billion a year ago.

Excluding special items, Waste Management said it would have earned $252 million, or 47 cents a share, compared with year-ago earnings of $255 million, or 46 cents a share.

Analysts were looking for a profit of 46 cents a share on sales of $3.41 billion, according to a Thomson Financial poll. Those estimates typically exclude one-time items.

Including one-time charges, profit in the October-December period decreased to $246 million, or 46 cents a share, from $290 million, or 52 cents a share, a year earlier.

"Our solid performance in the fourth quarter completed an excellent year in which we exceeded our internal expectations for earnings growth, margin expansion and free cash flow," chief executive David P. Steiner said.

For all of 2006, Waste Management said earnings fell slightly to $1.15 billion, or $2.10 a share, from $1.18 billion, or 2.09 a share, in 2005.

The company said it expects adjusted full-year earnings in 2007 to increase by 8% to 10%, to a range of $1.96 to $2 a share. That compares to adjusted full-year earnings of $1.81 a share in 2006.