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Strong 4Q trims AK Steel’s annual net loss for 2013

AK Steel Holding Corp. returned to profitability in the fourth quarter of 2013, helping the Butler County steelmaker trim its annual loss for the full-year 2013 to $46.8 million.

In the most recent October through December quarter, AK Steel recorded a net profit of $35.2 million, according to results released Tuesday. The company has not had a quarterly profit since the April to June period of 2011.

AK Steel is Middletown’s largest employer. Between the company’s headquarters in West Chester Twp. and the Middletown steel plant, AK Steel has approximately 2,400 full-time jobs in Butler County.

AK Steel also released Tuesday its annual results for 2013. Last year’s net loss was $46.8 million, compared to a net loss in 2012 of more than $1 billion. It was AK Steel’s fifth consecutive yearly loss.

AK Steel in 2013 reduced its financial losses from the year before despite lower steel sales.

Sales for 2013 were $5.57 billion, a decrease of 6 percent compared to $5.93 billion in revenues for 2012. Last year, 5.3 million tons of steel were shipped from AK Steel’s seven major plants, a 3 percent drop from approximately 5.4 million tons shipped in 2012 as a result of lower shipments to the carbon spot market, AK Steel said.

The combined effects of weak market conditions at the beginning of 2013 and an unplanned outage halfway through the year at the company’s largest steel plant Middletown Works lowered sales in 2013, Roger Newport, chief financial officer of AK Steel, told investors in a conference call.

However, sales to the automotive market, which represents about half of AK Steel’s business, grew more than 8 percent in 2013 over 2012, said James Wainscott, chairman, president and chief executive officer of AK Steel, on the same call to investors.

“2013 was a year of progress for AK Steel. Despite facing a number of challenges during the year, we persevered and improved in most facets of our business,” Wainscott said.

Forecasts for higher auto sales in 2014, and improving residential and commercial construction markets bode well for steel demand in the year ahead, Wainscott said. However, he also noted that the electrical steel market continues to suffer from excess capacity, unfairly traded imports and relatively flat demand.

“Following five challenging years for the steel industry and for AK Steel — from 2009 to 2013 — AK Steel expects to emerge as a stronger company, on every front, in 2014,” Wainscott said.

AK Steel’s stock price rose 18.7 percent in trading Tuesday to close at $7.11 per share.

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