CLEVELAND ISG reports profit for fourth quarter and a loss for 2003



Fourth-quarter production and shipping were up, so revenue rose 20 percent.
CLEVELAND (AP) -- International Steel Group Inc., an industry giant built from the remnants of down-and-out companies, reported a fourth-quarter profit of $24.9 million on Thursday and a 2003 loss related to its acquisition of Bethlehem Steel.
ISG, which was founded in 2002, said its fourth-quarter earnings were 28 cents per share on sales of $1.4 billion, or 3.5 million tons of steel.
For 2003, when its Bethlehem Steel acquisition led to $70.3 million in charges, ISG lost $23.5 million, or 31 cents per share, on sales of $4.1 billion, or 10.4 million tons.
Comparisons with 2002 would lack meaning because ISG wasn't in existence for the full year, the company said.
CEO Rodney B. Mott said production and shipments increased significantly in the fourth quarter, leading to a 20 percent increase in revenues over the third quarter and improved operating income.
ISG has catapulted to the top of the industry by buying bankrupt steelmakers at bargain prices, cutting costs including retiree pensions and reinventing the companies so they can produce more steel cheaper than nearly anyone else in the United States.
Awaiting approval
Last week, ISG announced bankrupt Weirton Steel Corp. had accepted a $255 million buyout offer. The deal must be approved by a bankruptcy judge.
Analysts say they'll be watching to see how much new debt ISG takes on once the Weirton deal is completed. ISG recently paid down a big chunk of its $750 million in debt with proceeds from its $462 million December initial stock offering, silencing critics who were concerned about the pace with which ISG was taking on fixer-uppers.
ISG was created when New York buyout firm WL Ross & amp; Co. purchased the remnants of bankrupt LTV Corp. in Cleveland, then acquired Bethlehem Steel and Acme Metals. It now is second in size only to Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel Corp.
ISG can cast more than 18 million tons of steel a year. It has plants in10 states, including facilities in Cleveland and East Chicago, Ind., that make flat-rolled steel. It also runs a coke plant in Warren and a finishing plant in Hennepin, Ill.

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