- THE MAGAZINE
Downers Grove, Ill. -- ServiceMaster Co., a maintenance services provider, has posted lower fourth-quarter profits and warned that 2001 profits might fall short of current expectations. ServiceMaster's shares have underperformed the Standard & Poor's Index by more than 10% over the past year. Known for its cleaning, lawn maintenance, pest control, and other services, the company has posted fourth quarter earnings of $31.8 million or 11 cents a share, comparable with $53.3 million or 17 cents a share the previous year. According to the company, fourth-quarter revenues decreased 3 percent to $1.42 billion, down from $1.46 billion last year. Fourth-quarter earnings were somewhat lower than its previous estimate as severe weather conditions at the end of November and during December affected production levels in a number of its major markets, the company says. ServiceMaster has sold or discontinued nonprofitable or noncore business units, yet 2001 will be hurt by added interest costs and pressures on operating margins. ServiceMaster says it plans to invest in technology, systems and marketing.