Hillenbrand Industries Inc. (HB), which makes medical equipment and caskets, on Tuesday said quarterly earnings rose ten-fold, capping a year that saw sales helped by acquisitions.

However, the company forecast earnings for fiscal 2005 below analysts' estimates, and its shares fell as much as 2.7 percent before paring losses.

Earnings from continuing operations were $45 million, or 73 cents a share, topping analysts' average estimate of 69 cents a share as compiled by Reuters Estimates.

"It's clear that 2004 was a challenging year. While we introduced many new products and fundamentally changed our operating portfolio and capital structure, we also faced increasing competitive pressures, dramatically increased raw material costs, and fell short in execution in some areas," Hillenbrand Chief Executive Frederick Rockwood said in a statement.

He said the company's funeral services business saw increasing prices for steel, hardwoods and fuel, while death rates were low and cremations were rising in the United States.

Net income in the fiscal fourth quarter ended Sept. 30 rose to $63 million, or $1.01 a share, from $6 million, or 10 cents a share, in the year-earlier period.

Sales in the quarter rose to $474 million from $435 million.

Batesville, Ind.-based Hillenbrand, which makes hospital beds, stretchers and coffins, said it expects fiscal 2005 earnings from continuing operations of $3.40 to $3.50 a share, below the $3.77 analysts were expecting according to Reuters Estimates. It forecast 2005 sales of $1.93 billion to $1.98 billion, up from $1.83 billion in 2004.

Hillenbrand shares initially fell as low as $53.28 before paring losses. They were down 10 cents at $54.67 on the New York Stock Exchange (search).