updated 2/3/2004 7:43:10 AM ET 2004-02-03T12:43:10

Colgate-Palmolive Co. Tuesday said fourth-quarter profit rose 9 percent as the weak dollar and a gain from the sale of European laundry detergent brands offset weakness in the U.S. tooth-whitening business.

The maker of Simply White tooth whitening gel, Palmolive dish soap and other products said earnings rose to $372.1 million, or 65 cents a share, from $340.9 million, or 59 cents a share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average forecast profit of 63 cents a share, according to Reuters Research, a unit of Reuters Group Plc.

Sales rose 6.5 percent to $2.57 billion, matching the Reuters Research estimate.

In December, Colgate Chief Executive Reuben Mark said the New York-based company’s attempt to score a big win with Simply White over the past year took focus away from the rest of its U.S. business.

Simply White has lost money in the United States as Colgate increased advertising and promotions to push the product, which competes with Procter & Gamble Co.’s Crest Whitestrips.

Colgate also warned in December that first-quarter earnings would fall below analysts’ estimates.

The sale of the European laundry detergent brands added 4 cents a share to fourth-quarter earnings, helping offset the loss from Simply White, the company said.

Unit volume rose 2 percent in the quarter, with volume falling in North America and rising in all other operating divisions.

The company also said it expected to close the acquisition of European toothpaste company Gaba Holding AG late in the first quarter or in the second quarter. 

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