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Cooper posts increases in sales, net income in 2002

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Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. recorded net income of $112 million on net sales of $3.33 billion in 2002.

The income figure was 520% greater than in 2001. However, net income in 2001 was impacted by expenses related to the settlement of class action lawsuits that had been filed against Cooper in 2000. Without these expenses, net income would have been $63 million in 2001.

Net sales in 2002 were up 5.5% compared to the previous year.

For the fourth quarter, Cooper posted net income of $23 million on revenue of $842 million. This compares favorably to the same period in 2001, when Cooper earned $16 million on sales of $777 million.

"We achieved some very solid numbers for the quarter and the year, but our results go beyond the numbers," says Tom Dattilo, chairman, CEO and president. "We set certain goals at the beginning of the year and we achieved them.

"We met our targets for unit growth in tire sales. We reduced tire inventory just as we said we would. We met or exceeded our targets for restructuring and lean savings. And, importantly, we were able to generate a significant amount of cash and met our debt reduction targets."

Cash flow from operations for the year totaled $341 million, an increase of 27% compared to 2001. Cooper also reduced its debt by $203 million in 2002.

Net sales for Cooper's Tire Group were $1.77 billion last year, an increase of 3.7% compared to the previous year. Tire unit sales were up nearly 5% overall, "with units shipped to the regional retailer channel up more than 30% and Cooper brand units in North America improving by nearly 6%," according to the company.

Tire Group operating profit for the year was $137 million, compared to $73 million in 2001. However, profit in 2001 was impacted by the class action settlement charges. If those charges are eliminated for comparison purposes, Cooper's operating profit actually declined by 5%.

Cooper announced a quarterly dividend of 10.5 cents per share of common stock, payable March 28, 2003, to stockholders of record at the close of business March 3. This will mark the 124th consecutive quarterly dividend paid by the company. Cooper estimates the dividend pay-out will total $31 million.

Cooper's stock was selling for $14.39 a share as of the close of the New York Stock Exchange yesterday.

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