updated 10/22/2004 10:27:02 AM ET 2004-10-22T14:27:02

Weyerhaeuser Co.'s third-quarter earnings catapulted to more than seven times last year's levels, bolstered by a big gain on a Georgia sell-off, improved sales, and the absence of charges that hampered last year's results.

Separately, the forest products company announced a plan to buy back $700 million in bonds and projected "normal seasonal downturns" in the fourth quarter.

Weyerhaeuser Friday posted earnings of $594 million, or $2.45 a share, up from $82 million, or 37 cents a share, a year earlier.

The current quarter's results included a gain of $179 million, or 74 cents per diluted share, from a sale of timberlands in Georgia. Excluding all items, earnings were about $1.84 a share.

A Thomson First Call survey of Wall Street analysts projected, on average, third-quarter earnings of $1.40 a share, excluding items.

For the 2003 quarter the company racked up charges of $62 million, or 28 cents a share.

Third-quarter sales at Weyerhaeuser rose 13 percent to $5.85 billion from $5.18 billion a year earlier.

The wood products unit, the largest chunk of operations, posted earnings of $362 million, down from $448 million for the second quarter. Weyerhaeuser expects fourth-quarter earnings at the unit to drop from the third quarter as lumber and structural panel prices decline.

Overall, the Federal Way-based company expects fourth-quarter earnings "similar" to the third quarter, excluding the effects of the sale in Georgia.

Wall Street analysts have been expecting fourth-quarter earnings of $1.04 a share, according to First Call.

For the fourth quarter a year earlier, the company posted earnings of $92 million, or 41 cents a share.

Shares of Weyerhaeuser were at $62.90, up $1.76, or 2.9 percent, in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

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