AK Steel Reports Loss; Nucor Profit Slips 70%

Steelmakers anticipate another tough quarter ahead.

The economic downturn hit at least two domestic steelmakers particularly hard in the final three months of 2008 as shipments fell in response to the declining housing and automotive sectors.

West Chester, Ohio-based AK Steel Holding Corp. said Jan. 27 that it recorded a loss of $430.6 million, or $3.88 a share, in the fourth quarter. The loss includes a $699.5 million charge related to the company's pension plans. Steel shipments fell 32% from the year-ago ago period, while sales dropped 14%.

In anticipation of another slow quarter, AK Steel will idle its Middletown blast furnace for about 45 days beginning in early March to perform extensive maintenance. The company said it expects to "experience a significant operating loss for the first quarter of 2009."

For the full year, profit plummeted to $4 million, or 4 cents a share, compared with $387.7 million, or $3.46 a share.

Charlotte-based scrap steel processor Nucor Corp. reported profit dropped 71% to $105.9 million, or 34 cents per share, in the fourth quarter. The company said energy costs in the fourth quarter increased $10 per ton and $6 per ton for the full year.

The company reported record annual earnings of $1.83 billion, or $598 per share, compared with $1.47 billion, or $494 a share, in 2007.

Nucor said in its earnings release that it expects first-quarter conditions will "remain as challenging as they were in the fourth quarter."

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