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Tough year selling boats?

JAN. 29 — The chairman of the world’s largest maker of recreational boats projects that boat sales in the United States this year will be at their lowest in nearly a decade.

Dusty McCoy, CEO of Brunswick Corp. said last week that this year will be a tough one for the recreational boating industry, with sales the lowest they’ve been since 2000, news reports say. Sales this year will most likely be flat in Europe, he says.

Brunswick — maker of such boats as Boston Whaler, Hatteras and Triton, as well as Mercury engines — reported a fourth-quarter loss of $53.2 million, reports say. The year before, Brunswick posted a profit of $88.3 million.

Despite the declines, Brunswick officials say their plans to cut costs, manage inventories and “flatten” the corporate structure will pay off.

“We are pleased with our performance in light of the difficult marine market conditions we faced throughout the year,” McCoy said during a conference call Thursday. “We’re living the nightmare we saw in 2000 and 2001. And we’re making a lot more money despite those decreases.”

Contributing to the fourth-quarter decline was an $18.9 million pre-tax restructuring charge recorded during the quarter, associated with plant closures, and the layoffs of 75 hourly employees and 230 salaried employees announced in November 2006. Those costs include severance costs, asset write-downs and other costs associated with workforce reduction and plant shut-downs.

— Jason Fell