Diversified consumer products giant Sara Lee Corp has suffered a fourth-quarter loss of $148 million, due to expenses related to employee lay-offs and sales decreases. The net loss compared with net income of $534 million for the same period last year.

Fourth-quarter net sales fell 5.3 per cent to $4.75 billion, including an 8 per cent slump in the apparel division. The company cited weaknesses including low printable T-shirt sales, and poor sales of intimate apparel in Europe.

Net sales for fiscal 2005 were $19.3bn  - 1 per cent over fiscal 2004. The company expects 2006 sales to stay static.

Sara Lee is selling off its apparel units as it reorganises into a food, beverage and household products company.