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UPDATE 2-Whirlpool forecasts 2021 profit above estimates as demand up in pandemic

(Compares with fourth quarter estimates, adds share movement, CEO quote)

Jan 27 (Reuters) - Whirlpool Corp on Wednesday forecast 2021 profit above expectations and beat quarterly earnings estimates on strong demand for its home appliances from people stuck at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Demand for large appliances known as white goods, including refrigerators, washing machines, tumble driers, picked up during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people diverted their discretionary spending from social activities like traveling into upgrading their homes to ease household chores.

“As we enter into 2021, we continue to see signs of economic recovery - such as positive demand and encouraging structural housing trends,” Chief Executive Officer Marc Bitzer said.

The owner of brands including KitchenAid and Maytag said it expects full-year 2021 adjusted profit to be between $19 per share and $20 per share, the midpoint of which is above analysts’ average estimate of $19.10, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

The Benton Harbor, Michigan-based company expects free cash flow of $1 billion or more in 2021 and net sales to rise 6%.

Net earnings jumped 72.6% in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31 to $497 million from $288 million. Sales in North America, the company’s biggest market, also rose.

The company’s shares, which have risen about 70% in the past nine months, were down about 4% after the bell.

Reporting by Shreyasee Raj; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi

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