Warm winter weather and weakness in the auto and housing industries led to a fourth-quarter sales decline in North America for Rohm & Haas Co.

But the Philadelphia company said it had quicker growth in overseas markets, resulting in a small sales gain globally.

Fourth-quarter sales rose 2 percent, to $2.03 billion from $1.99 billion in the year-earlier period. In North America, in comparison, sales fell 6 percent.

Fourth-quarter net income rose to $176 million, or 80 cents a share, from $131 million, or 59 cents a share.

Among the special items in the fourth quarter was a $12 million after-tax restructuring charge connected with eliminating 200 jobs in the United States. The company said in October that it would refocus its workforce and operations on developing economies.

Spokesman Brian McPeak said 75 people were losing their jobs in the salt business. Rohm & Haas is closing a Louisiana salt plant and trimming the division's sales force.

The remaining jobs are being eliminated in the coatings and chemicals businesses - "a person here and a person there," McPeak said. Rohm & Haas employs 3,000 in the Philadelphia region.

Rohm & Haas, which owns the Morton business, said salt sales to transportation departments for highways and roads fell 51 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier. The weather had been unseasonably warm in the eastern United States and parts of Canada. Profit in the salt business declined to $15 million from $28 million in the year-earlier period.

For the year, Rohm & Haas reported $8.23 billion in sales, compared with $7.89 billion in 2005. Profit was $735 million, or $3.32 a share, compared with $637 million, or $2.85 a share.

Chief executive officer Raj Gupta said the company was being conservative in its outlook for 2007 because of slowing growth in its monomers and electronics-materials divisions. The company also is opening a new European headquarters in Switzerland. The European restructuring will cost about $50 million, Gupta said in a conference call.

Rohm & Haas expects sales of $8.7 billion to $8.9 billion in 2007 and earnings per share of $3.40 to $3.60.

Shares of the specialty-chemical firm closed yesterday at $52.15, down 2.3 percent, or $1.21 a share.

For Rohm & Haas' full fourth-quarter and year-end financial reports, go to http://go.philly.com/Rohm4Q


Contact staff writer Bob Fernandez at 215-854-5897 or bob.fernandez@phillynews.com.