Beth Steel 'clearly hurting'; Fourth-quarter loss larger than expected at $23.2 million


Bethlehem Steel Corp. yesterday reported a larger-than-forecast loss -- on lower sales -- for the final quarter of 1998, and said yet again that "dumped" foreign steel was the chief culprit for its woes.

The Bethlehem, Pa.-based steelmaker said it lost $23.2 million, or 26 cents per fully diluted share, in the quarter that ended Dec. 30, compared with net income of $41.7 million, or 27 cents per fully diluted share, in the corresponding period of 1997.

Bethlehem had been expected to lose 18 cents per share for the quarter, according to the mean estimate of 12 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research.

Fourth-quarter sales dropped about 9 percent to $1.013 billion from the $1.118 billion reported for the last quarter of 1997. The sales decline came even though Lukens Inc. had contributed to the fourth-quarter 1998 numbers, the Coatesville, Pa.-based steelmaker having joined the Bethlehem Steel family in May when it was acquired for $835 million.

"They're clearly hurting," said longtime steel-industry analyst Charles Bradford, who follows Bethlehem for his own firm, Bradford Research, in New York.

In an afternoon conference call with reporters, Bethlehem Steel Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Curtis H. "Hank" Barnette repeatedly blamed dumped foreign steel for his company's losses -- and for problems of U.S. steelmakers in general.

"This simply must stop," Barnette said.

In September, with Bethlehem Steel and Barnette taking the point position, Big Steel filed dumping cases against Japan, Russia and Brazil, contending that those countries and others were selling hot-rolled steel in the United States for less than the same steel was selling for in their home markets. That's known as "dumping" and violates international trade laws.

Barnette also revealed yesterday that the U.S. steel industry is preparing dumping cases relating to other products and other countries. It has also appealed for help to the Clinton administration and to Congress, where at least one bill has been drafted that would hamper imports.

In the fourth quarter, when the company's steel shipments dropped about 10 percent, Bethlehem lost $7 on each ton of steel it made, according to analyst Bradford.

For all 1998, Bethlehem Steel said, it earned $120.1 million, or 64 cents per fully diluted share, compared with a profit of $280.7 million, or $2.03 per fully diluted share, reported for 1997.

Adjusting for some one-time financial items in both years, however, Bethlehem earned $149 million, or 88 cents per basic share, in 1998, compared with $168 million, or $1.12 per basic share, in 1997, said Barnette, the CEO. He did not give comparable fully diluted per-share earnings numbers.

Pub Date: 1/28/99

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad