Consolidated net sales of $220.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2016 declined 4% compared with $230.4 million in the prior year. Approximately half of the decline resulted from unusually high sales of Other segment products in 2015 in advance of the December 2015 closure of the Fitchburg mill. The remaining decrease in sales reflected lower shipments and unfavorable currency translation impacts in Technical Products and a lower-priced mix in Fine Paper and Packaging.
In the fourth quarter, Technical Products net sales of $104.3 million decreased 3% compared with prior year sales of $108 million. Excluding unfavorable currency translation, sales declined 2%, as growth in transportation filtration and backings was offset by decreased shipments of labels, water filtration and other specialty performance materials.
"In 2016 our teams again delivered impressive financial results and returns for our shareholders. With record operating cash flows and balanced capital deployment, we invested capital efficiently to add filtration capacity in the U.S., completed the integration of FiberMark with its added capabilities, increased direct cash returns to shareholders by over 30%, and used remaining funds to pay down debt," says John O'Donnell, chief executive officer. "Our businesses enter 2017 with strong market positions and catalysts for continued growth. Coupled with our substantial cash flow generation and strong balance sheet, we're well-positioned to create further value for our shareholders as Neenah continues to develop into a faster growing, diversified specialty materials company."