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8/1/2004

Ball profit up; UQM drops

The Daily Times-Call

Ball Corp., a maker of food and beverage cans, last week announced a 23 percent jump in second-quarter profits, citing solid performances from all of its segments.

The Broomfield-based company had net income of $90.7 million, or $1.60 a share, for the latest quarter, up from $74.3 million, or $1.30 a share, a year ago.

The results easily topped Wall Street’s expectations. Analysts were looking for second-quarter earnings of $1.43 a share.

Hotter weather in North America in the first half of this year helped boost beverage can sales in “key regions” of the continent that had cool, wet weather last year, the company said.

Sales rose 9 percent in the quarter, from $1.35 billion to $1.47 billion.

North American packaging segment earnings came to $91.4 million on sales of $945.4 million, compared with $80.3 million on sales of $905.9 million a year ago.

International packaging segment earnings were $62.1 million on sales of $351.5 million, versus $50.4 million on sales of $321 million in the same period last year.

The aerospace and technologies segment, which makes imaging and communications components, reported earnings of $12 million on sales of $170.3 million, compared with $11 million on sales of $126.3 million a year ago.

For the first six months of the year, Ball earned $137.5 million, or $2.41 a share, compared with $105.8 million, or $1.84 a share, during the same period the previous year.

First-half sales rose from $2.42 billion to $2.7 billion.

The first half of 2004 had six more business days, all in the first quarter, than did the first half of 2003.

The day before its earnings announcement, Ball said it would split its shares two for one, and increased its quarterly dividend by 33 percent.

It also said it would buy back up to 12 million shares after the split.

_ _ _

UQM Technologies Inc. reported a significant increase in revenue losses for the most recent quarter, compared with the same quarter the previous year.

The developer and manufacturer of alternative motors and generators reported a loss in the most recent quarter of $698,000, or 4 cents per common share, on revenue of $684,000. This compares to a loss of $184,000, or 1 cent per common share, on revenue of $1.9 million during the first quarter of its previous fiscal year.

Two things were to blame for the setback, according to company executives: Newly purchased software the company is integrating into its motors took longer than anticipated to develop, and a disruption occurred in orders for wheelchair propulsion motors, which the company also makes.

Bill Rankin, UQM’s president and CEO, said the company relies on the software to make its motors and systems “intelligently” do what the company’s customers expect them to do, and such software is “a very important part of our activity.”

The wheelchair motors were more of a timing issue, Rankin told investors during a conference call, and shipments should resume normalcy in the coming quarter, he said.

On a positive note, the company also announced this week that it had been awarded a contract from the Eaton Corp. to develop hybrid propulsion components for trucks and other vehicles Eaton is building as part of a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy.

Rankin said Eaton also is involved with Federal Express in a hybrid vehicle program, which could be a benefit for UQM down the road.

“We expect to earn our way into the FedEx program as a result of this activity,” Rankin said.

His company already supplies hybrid motor and propulsion systems for companies such as John Deere and Caterpillar, as well as for the U.S. military.

Times-Call wire services contributed to this report.