updated 10/28/2009 9:10:40 AM ET 2009-10-28T13:10:40

International Paper, the world's top wood products company, said Wednesday its third-quarter profit more than doubled as a huge federal tax credit more than offset falling sales of cardboard box materials.

The 13 percent sales decline shows retailers who depend on consumer spending for their profits have yet to resume large-scale purchases of the cardboard boxes that are made from materials from IP and its rivals.

International Paper, based in Memphis, said its profit rose to $371 million, or 87 cents per share, in the July-September period from $149 million, or 35 cents per share, a year ago.

But the latest results included special items including $525 million federal alternative fuel tax credit.

Without special items, IP said it would have earned 37 cents per share from continuing operations versus 84 cents a share a year ago. The latest figure is 13 cents a share better than Wall Street analysts polled by Thomson Financial expected. They typically exclude special items from their estimates.

The law authorizing the fuel tax credit is set to expire in December.

Sales fell 13 percent to $5.92 billion from $6.81 billion a year ago.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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