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Waters Corporation (WAT - Analyst Report) released its fourth-quarter and fiscal 2012 earnings before the market opened today. The company reported earnings per share from continuing operations of $1.59, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate by a penny.

Earnings in the quarter increased 1.9% from $1.56 in the fourth quarter of 2011. Earnings in the quarter benefited from the company’s initiatives to control expenses and maintain disciplined pricing.

Revenue

Total revenue was flat year over year at $521 million in the fourth quarter of 2012. On a constant currency basis, sales grew 1.5%. Though the difficult market condition was a challenge for the company, top-line figures increased organically due to a stable pharmaceutical demand and strong sales in Asia.

Income

Operating income for the quarter stood at $159.4 million, down 3.3% from $164.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. The company incurred total SG&A expense of approximately $122.1 million in the quarter, down 3.2% year over year. R&D expense was around $25 million in the quarter versus $23.7 million in the prior-year quarter.

Balance Sheet

Exiting the year, cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments reached approximately $1.54 billion compared with $1.28 billion at the end of 2011. Long-term debt was $1.04 billion with a debt-to-capitalization ratio of 41.6%. Shareowner’s equity was $1.46 billion at the end of fiscal 2012.

Moving Ahead

Waters Corporation continues to see considerable stability in its end markets and continued momentum in the acceptance of new products. However, the analytical instrument and systems market is highly competitive. Major competitors of Waters, which currently has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold), are Measurement Specialties Inc., Sutron Corp. , Mettler Toledo Intl. (MTD - Snapshot Report) and PerkinElmer Inc. (PKI - Analyst Report) , all of which carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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