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Ecolab's 1st-quarter profit beats expectations

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- Ecolab Inc. said healthy margin gains, lower interest expenses and a better tax rate, along with some one-time items, helped more than triple its first-quarter net income.

The water, hygiene and technology company earned $159.6 million, or 53 cents per share, for the period. That is compared with $49.7 million, or 17 cents per share, earned in the same quarter last year. After adjusting for tax benefits, restructuring costs and other special items in both periods, it earned 60 cents per share versus 50 cents per share last year.

Ecolab's revenue increased 2 percent to $2.87 billion.

Analysts polled by FactSet, on average, were expecting the company to earn 58 cents per share on revenue of $2.89 billion for the period.

Ecolab CEO Douglas Baker said that the company delivered excellent earnings growth, despite challenging market conditions and comparison to a strong period last year. While softness persists in its North American and European markets, the company expects the strength from its business in Asia Pacific and Latin America will help drive sales and earnings growth for the year.

The company also expects to benefit from its $2.16 billion acquisition of competitor Champion Technologies, which closed earlier this month. Ecolab said the acquisition should add 7 cents to its earnings in 2013 and up to 50 cents per share by 2016.

For 2013, Ecolab expects to earn between $3.45 and $3.55. Analysts polled by FactSet were anticipating earnings of $3.49 per share.

The company forecast second-quarter earnings between 81 and 85 cents per share; analysts had forecast earnings of 85 cents per share.

Shares of Ecolab, based in St. Paul, Minn., fell 17 cents to $83.08 in afternoon trading.