Scotts Miracle-Gro posts 4Q loss

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MARYSVILLE, Ohio (AP) -- The Scotts Miracle-Gro Co.'s shares fell Thursday after the lawn and garden products maker reported a smaller loss on flat revenue in its fourth fiscal quarter which spanned the U.S. summer months.

The Ohio-based company has been struggling with an extended run of weaker sales, higher costs and legal issues.

CEO Jim Hagedorn said that while the latest results did not meet the company's expectations, it gained market share in all its categories. He said he is confident the company is making progress on its financial rebuilding and Scotts aims to return its business to the earnings levels it saw two years ago.

Scotts said that it has a number of plans in place to improve its financial performance but won't announce those initiatives until December at an analyst meeting.

Its shares dropped more than 3 percent in afternoon trading.

The company reported a loss of $40.1 million, or 66 cents per share, for the period that ended Sept. 30. That's compared with a loss of $53.4 million, or 86 cents per share, in the prior year. Its adjusted loss from continuing operations was 59 cents per share. Analysts surveyed by FactSet expected an adjusted loss of 57 cents per share.

Revenue slipped to $401.2 million from $403.1 million. Analysts expected revenue of $412.4 million.

The company has struggled with weak demand and higher commodity, shipping and administrative costs. Its problems worsened in September when federal authorities said the company would pay $12.5 million in criminal and civil penalties for violating pesticide laws.

Scotts pleaded guilty to applying toxic insecticide to its wild bird food products and falsifying pesticide registrations. It also pleaded guilty to distributing pesticides with misleading and unapproved labels and distributing unregistered pesticides. It has since made changes to improve its regulatory compliance.

Its shares fell $1.51, or 3.4 percent, to $42.55 in afternoon trading. Its shares were on a steady upward trend for several years until they peaked in the spring of 2011 and are down roughly 25 percent since then.