Ferro 4Q loss widens on sagging demand

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CLEVELAND (AP) -- Ferro Corp. said Tuesday that its fourth-quarter loss widened, hurt by lower demand for precious metals and solar products. The loss was bigger than Wall Street expected, but the revenue came in ahead of predictions.

For the quarter ended Dec. 31, the Cleveland-based specialty chemicals maker posted a loss of $63.9 million, or 74 cents per share, compared with a loss of $61 million, or 71 cents per share, in the same quarter last year. Excluding one-time charges, Ferro said its loss totaled 7 cents per share.

Revenue fell 8 percent to $405.9 million from $442.7 million, as precious metals sales dropped 29 percent, pulling down sales at all of the company's businesses.

Analysts, on average, expected a loss of 4 cents per share on $392.5 million in revenue, according to FactSet.

Ferro's electronic materials business posted the biggest sales decline, dropping 22 percent to $65.2 million mainly as a result of lower demand for solar paste products and precious metal powders and flakes for use in electronics.

The company's overall sales also were hurt by weak European demand, especially in southern Europe and mainly in the company's performance coatings and color and glass performance materials segments.

For the full year 2012, Ferro posted a loss of $374.3 million, or $4.34 per share, compared with net income of $4.2 million, or 5 cents per share, in 2011. Revenue fell to $1.77 billion from $2.16 billion.

Ferro said that this year it will continue to cut costs to boost profitability. It projected adjusted first-quarter earnings of 2 cents to 5 cents per share and adjusted 2013 earnings of 25 cents to 30 cents per share.

Analysts expect earnings of 5 cents per share for the quarter and 26 cents per share for the year.

Ferro slipped 17 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $6.63 in midday trading Tuesday. Its shares have traded in a 52-week range of $2.38 to $6.95.