Beth Steel cuts dividend, work force 350 jobs are imperiled at Sparrows Point plant.

January 29, 1992|By Ross Hetrick nBB

Trying to pull itself out of a flood of red ink, Bethlehem Steel Corp. announced today that it will eliminate its dividend, cut its total work force by 6,500 and dispose of its bar, rod and wire division -- a move that will affect about 350 workers at the company's Sparrows Point steel mill in Baltimore County.

The steel maker lost $638.1 million, or $8.47 a share, during the fourth quarter of 1991, compared to a loss of $516.8 million, or $6.91 per share, for the 1990 fourth quarter. Revenues for the quarter were $1 billion compared to $1.2 billion for the comparable quarter of 1990.

Much of the loss was from the $575 million restructuring charge.

Because of the continuing losses, the company said it was eliminating its 10-cent a share quarterly dividend.

For the year, the company lost $767 million, or $10.41 per share, compared to a loss of $463.5 million, or $6.45 a share, for 1990. Sales during 1991 were $4.3 billion compared to $4.9 billion for 1990.

The bar, rod and wire division operates an electric furnace and production facilities in Johnstown, Pa., a bar mill in Lackawanna, N.Y., and a rod mill at Sparrows Point. The local rod mill employs about 350 people, according to local Bethlehem spokesman G. Ted Baldwin.

Bethlehem said it intends to sell the entire division to a buyer who would continue the business.

The company also announced it will be taking the coke oven operation at Sparrows Point from a "hot idle" status to a "cold idle" condition because it found that needed repairs were more extensive than anticipated, according Mr. Baldwin. Normally, the coke ovens, which supply coke for the steel-making process, would be kept warm so as not to harm the silica brick that lines the ovens.

The company announced last year that it would shut down the ovens for at least two years as it studied their future. About 400 workers were laid off and another 100 reassigned in December as a result, Mr. Baldwin said.

The Sparrows Point mill has a work force of about 6,400.

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