The end of the year was better than the middle of the year for Ecolab, but the coronavirus pandemic still had a negative impact on its fourth quarter.

The St. Paul-based company earned $300 million, or $1.04 per share, down about from the fourth quarter last year. Sales were down 6% to $3.1 billion.

"We had a solid business performance during the fourth quarter in the face of significant COVID-19-related end-market restrictions," Christophe Beck, who took over as CEO from Doug Baker on Jan. 1, said in a news release.

Adjusted EPS from continuing operations was $1.23 per share, down 15% from the previous year. The adjusted figure excludes special gains and charges on discrete tax items but also reflects some COVID-19 impacts. The consensus among 16 analysts following the company was for adjusted EPS of $1.24.

Ecolab's results were like many other industrial manufacturers, improving but still being hit by COVID-19.

"While 80% of our aggregated business showed good sales and strong income growth, one of our most important investment initiatives has been in our Institutional business, which accounted for approximately 20% of our sales and nearly all of our COVID-related impact in 2020," Beck said in the release.

Ecolab's Global Institutional & Specialty segment saw its fourth quarter revenue decrease 22% to $881 million, and operating income fall 62% to $94.4 million compared to the fourth quarter of 2019.

The bright spot was Ecolab's Global Healthcare & Life Sciences segment, which saw a 23% increase in sales to $314 million as customers sought Ecolab's cleaning and sanitizing products used in hospital and health care settings and at pharmaceutical and personal care manufacturers.

Shares of Ecolab closed Tuesday at $210.91, down 4%.Shares over the last 52 weeks ranged from $124.60 to $231.36 per share.

Patrick Kennedy • 612-673-7926