U.S. Steel reports fifth consecutive unprofitable year

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U.S. Steel capped off its fifth consecutive unprofitable year by reporting a fourth-quarter loss of $122 million, or 84 cents per share, Monday. But the Pittsburgh steel maker said that excluding costs for restructuring and other one-time items, its operating performance improved.

The loss was wider than the loss of $50 million, or 35 cents per share, the company posted in the year-ago quarter. Sales fell 5 percent to $4.27 billion.

Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg were expecting a loss of 30 cents per share and sales of $4.35 billion.

The results included a $302 million, or $2.09 per share, noncash charge for shutting down the iron and steel making operations at its Hamilton, Ontario, plant and a tax-related gain of $142 million, or 98 cents per share.

Excluding those items, the company said it earned $38 million, or 27 cents per share, in the fourth quarter versus an adjusted net loss of $59 million, or 41 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

For all of 2013, U.S. Steel lost $2.06 billion, or $14.27 per share, versus a 2012 loss of $124 million, or 86 cents per share. Sales slid 10 percent to $17.42 billion.

The 2013 loss reflects a $2.1 billion noncash charge to write down the value of plants in Canada and Texas that the company acquired through acquisitions.

The results were disclosed after the market closed. U.S. Steel shares finished Monday at $25.45, up 17 cents.

Separately, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday that U.S. Steel does not have to pay workers at its Gary, Ind., mill for the time it takes for them to put on and take off protective clothing.

Workers at the Gary mill had sued the steel producer in 2007. They sought back pay for the time they spent donning protective clothing and travelling to their work site, as well as for returning to their locker rooms and showering after their shifts.

U.S. Steel had only placed them on the clock once they were dressed and at their job site, citing its labor agreement with the United Steelworkers union.

In a prepared statement, U.S. Steel said it "has appropriately and constructively addressed these matters in our collective bargaining process and this decision reaffirms the validity of that approach."

A federal district court ruled in the workers' favor, but its decision was overturned on appeal. The workers appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed last year to hear the case.

The USW, which represents the workers, was not a party to the case.

Len Boselovic: lboselovic@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1941. First Published January 27, 2014 12:34 PM

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