FINDLAY, Ohio—Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. set fourth-quarter and year-end sales records for 1996, but net earnings for both periods fell slightly. Fourth-quarter sales jumped 9 percent to $416.3 million, the second highest sales quarter in the company's history; income dipped 3.5 percent to $32.7 million, compared with the year-ago quarter.
For the year, Cooper's sales climbed 8.4 percent to $1.62 billion but earnings fell 4.4 percent to $107.9 million, compared with 1995 results.
Cooper said demand and volume increased for both its tires and engineered products during the past year and ``some of the problematic industry conditions which existed throughout much of the year moderated in the fourth quarter.''
``A gradual decrease in raw material costs, coupled with a general stabilization in wholesale tire pricing in the industry provided an environment for marginal improvement during the quarter,'' said Cooper Chairman Patrick Rooney.
The manufacturer also reported that it spent $194 million in plant improvements, equipment and other assets, about the same amount spent in 1995.
``Over the past 10 years the company has invested over $1 billion to build the structure which we believe will assist our team in increasing efficiency and productivity and providing for increased results as we move forward over the next several years,'' Mr. Rooney said.
Cooper plans to continue its stock repurchase program ``as war-ranted by stock value and financial market conditions.'' By the end of 1996, the company had bought back 2.3 million shares, about 46 percent of the 5 million shares authorized by the board.