With brand names recognized by just about anyone who has ever separated dark colors from light, Whirlpool is one of the world's top home appliance makers. It specializes in laundry appliances, refrigerators and freezers, cooking appliances, dishwashers, and compressors. They're sold under a bevy of brand names, including Whirlpool, Amana, KitchenAid, Maytag, and Roper. The company markets and distributes these major home appliances in North America, Latin America, EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa), and Asia. It has manufacturing operations in more than a dozen countries. Major customers include retailers Lowe's, Home Depot, Sears, and Best Buy.
Whirlpool organizes its business segments by product line: Laundry Appliances, Refrigerators and Freezers, Cooking Appliances, and Other. Laundry Appliances, and Refrigerators and Freezers each bring in nearly 30% of the company's total revenue, while Cooking Appliances generate another roughly 20%.
Whirlpool's manufacturing plant in Cleveland, Tennessee is the world's largest premium cooking plant, and produces cooking products, including ranges, ovens, and cooktops. Whirlpool also sells home appliances in China through a strategic alliance with Suning Appliance Co., Ltd.
Whirlpool sells its products globally, and has some 70 manufacturing and technology research centers throughout the world. More than 50% of Whirlpool's revenue comes from sales in the US, while sales in Latin America bring in more than 20%. Whirlpool also boasts a significant presence in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa region, which contributes another 20% to overall revenue. Sales in Asia bring in the remainder.
Sales and Marketing
Whirlpool counts several big-name customers among its list of clients. It serves Meritage Homes, Lowe's, Sears, Home Depot, Best Buy, Casas Bahia, IKEA, and Alno. In North America, the company sells products to other manufacturers, distributors, builders, and retailers for resale under those manufacturers' and retailers' brand names.
The company spent $269 million on advertising in 2014, down from the $304 million spent in 2013 and down from the $273 million spent in 2012.
The company's revenues have been relatively flat over the past few years. Revenue in 2014, however, jumped by 6% to $19.87 billion, thanks mostly to the company's acquisition of Indesit, which boosted net sales in the EMEA region by 29%. Sales in North America also grew by nearly 5%, thanks to higher sales volume and favorable product price/mix as the economy strengthened. Foreign exchange rates had a negative impact on revenue abroad, which caused its Latin American sales to decline by 5% over the year.
Despite higher revenue, net income fell by 21% to $650 million in 2014, mostly as the company was not able to collect US energy tax credits that it recognized in 2013, but also because of higher selling, general and administrative expenses related to acquisition costs and investment expenses. In 2013, net income had more than doubled to $827 million thanks to revenue growth and a decline in restructuring costs incurred previously.
Cash from operations rose for a third year, growing 17% to $1.48 billion, mostly as the company sold off more of its inventory and because of timing of cash payments related to its accounts payable to suppliers.
The company is looking to improve its operating margins and earnings by implementing cost-based price increases, initiating cost reduction efforts, and making productivity improvements. For example, in 2014, the company spent $136 million toward restructuring its operations, which included the shuttering of a microwave oven manufacturing facility in the EMEA region. It has also closed some domestic facilities in the past few years.
At the same time, these cost savings are intended to give the company some flexibility as it makes continued investments in new product innovation. Capital expenditures for R&D related to new product innovation and improvement of existing products are now holding steady after a few years of incremental increases, reaching approximately $563 million in 2014, up from $532 million in 2010. In 2014, the company launched a new sustainable product, its Whirlpool HybridCare clothes dryer, which features a ventless heat pump dryer that uses less energy. Whirlpool is also implementing the usage of energy-efficient insulation from Honeywell in the production of its domestic refrigerators and freezers.
Whirlpool plans to pursue longer-term growth from certain emerging markets -- China and India in particular -- by making strategic partnerships and acquisitions to expand its global manufacturing centers. It recently entered into a strategic alliance with China's Suning Appliance Co. to sell home appliances there. As part of the agreement, Whirlpool enjoys access to some of China's smaller, fast-growing cities through Suning's national distribution network of 1,700 retail outlets. Its 2014 acquisitions of manufacturers Hefei Sanyo and Indesit strengthened the company's distribution reach even further in China and the EMEA region, respectively.
Mergers and Acquisitions
In October 2014, Whirlpool acquired a majority stake in Hefei Sanyo, Sanyo Electric's joint venture based in Hefei, China. The move made Whirlpool a 51% shareholder and further strengthened its production presence in sought-after China.
Also in late 2014, the company acquired a majority stake in Italian manufacturer Indesit for approximately $1.4 billion. The deal broadened Whirlpool's production presence in the EMEA region.